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  • New York firefighter Danae Mines stands with fellow firefighters during a an event in New York, NY, July 15, 2014.

    New York firefighter Danae Mines stands with fellow firefighters during a an event in New York, NY, July 15, 2014. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 October 2016

“It’s like I’m expected to live for less,” Stephanie Thomas, an NYFD veteran, said, adding that she had been passed over for several jobs she was qualified for.

The New York fire department has been hit with a lawsuit over racism filed by several Black workers who say they have been discriminated against and receive less pay in comparison with other white employees with less qualifications and experience.

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The local New York Daily News reported that the at least 10 Black employees filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in which they claim that Black workers were denied promotions and raises, while white workers with similar or lesser qualifications were promoted.

The complaint, filed mostly by Black women employees, said they were hired at lower starting salaries. The complaint said they plan to sue the department for US$150 million.

“No matter what you do, nobody recognizes what you do,” Frances Dempsey, who has worked for the FDNY for 41 years, told the newspaper.

“I’d like to see things change so that other employees that are coming after me who work hard and who like the city and like the Fire Department and like to do good work be adequately compensated.”

Dempsey added that three white male managers with the same title earn US$25-35,000 more than she did a year.

The complaint says that Black workers are paid an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by their whites peers. “It’s like I’m expected to live for less,” Stephanie Thomas, a 28-year veteran, said and added that she had been passed over for several jobs she was qualified for.

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This is the not the first time the NYFD has been hit with a lawsuit and a controversy over racism.

In 2014 the department was ordered to pay US$98 million to settle a massive lawsuit over discrimination against Blacks and Latinos applying to become firefighters. At the time the department also vowed to change its hiring practices.

“Whenever there’s a salary increase, they’re not getting it. Whenever there’s a promotion, they’re not getting it,” Greg Smith, the lawyer handling the case for the plaintiffs, told the New York Daily News. “These disparate racist treatments of our city workers ... need to stop.”

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