NAACP Joins Employment Discrimination Lawsuit Against the City of Reading, Pennsylvania

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Reading Branch NAACP today announced that they joined in Cortney Horne's employment discrimination lawsuit against Reading, Pa. The amended complaint was filed on February 27, 2006. The suit charges the Reading Fire Department with implementing discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices against African Americans and other minorities.

According to the amended complaint, the city's discriminatory employment practices include refusing to recruit and hire African Americans and other minorities for firefighter positions on the same basis as whites; basing such recruitment on a primarily "word of mouth" system that results in the employment of friends and relatives of current city firefighters, the vast majority of whom are white; failing or refusing to adopt nondiscriminatory recruitment, application, testing and selection techniques for the position of firefighter and failing or refusing to take appropriate action to correct the effects of its past discriminatory policies and practices.

As a result of the city's discriminatory hiring and recruitment practices, there are no African Americans and only two Hispanics among the approximately 147 uniformed Reading Fire Department employees. Although blacks constitute 10 percent and Hispanics constitute over 30 percent of the city's working age population, the fire department remains virtually all-white.

"The city's racial diversity should be reflected in the fire department," said NAACP President & CEO Bruce S. Gordon. "In the 21st century it is simply unacceptable for the fire department to essentially remain an all-white enclave within a multi-ethnic city."

NAACP General Counsel Dennis Courtland Hayes, said, "The NAACP joined this lawsuit to ensure that all people regardless of race and ethnicity have an equal opportunity to join the Reading Fire Department. The fire department must develop and implement an effective plan to recruit and hire African Americans and other minorities."

Plaintiffs in the case are seeking relief in the form of a permanent injunction barring the city from discriminating against African American and other minority firefighter candidates on the basis of race and/or national origin; a permanent injunction directing the city to adopt and implement a vigorous recruitment program designed to attract qualified African American and other minority applicants for employment in numbers which at least reflect the proportion of minority applicants and candidates in and around the city; lost income and benefits; reasonable attorneys' fees and expert fees.

The case is being litigated by the NAACP Legal Department; Rose & Rose, P.C.; Kairys, Rudovsky, Epstein & Messing and Trujillo Rodriguez & Richards, LLC.

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