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Justice Department Announces Settlement With Austin Over Firefighter Discrimination Claims

Callie Hernandez for KUT

The City of Austin and the U.S. Justice Department have agreed to a settlement in a complaint over hiring practices at the Austin Fire Department (AFD).

The settlement follows an investigation finding that the AFD selection process had the effect of unfairly discriminating against African-American and Hispanic applicants.

Under the agreement, which still needs approval by a federal court, the Austin Fire Department would change its hiring process to bring it in compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII forbids the use of employment practices such as written tests resulting in disparate impact against any group, based on factors like race or national origin. 

The settlement also calls for the city to provide $780,000 in back pay to affected applicants. Those applicants would be eligible for 30 entry-level positions with AFD, provided they pass the new selection process. If hired, they also would be eligible for retroactive seniority.

The Austin Firefighters Association is reviewing the terms of the settlement and considering its options, including possibly arguing for its rejection in the federal court where its approval is pending. 

Trey Shaar is an All Things Considered producer, reporter and host. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @treyshaar.
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