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Portsmouth settles firefighter discrimination lawsuit

The city of Portsmouth has settled with the Justice Department in a lawsuit that claimed a written exam discriminated against African-American firefighter applicants.

According to the Justice Department, as of Oct. 7, 2008, Portsmouth employed about 226 firefighters. Just over 12 percent are African American, while the city’s civilian labor force is more than 45 percent African American.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that as part of the settlement,  Portsmouth will no longer administer the National Firefighter Selection Test as part of the screening process. White applicants had been passing the written exam at a rate of 85.9 percent, while the rate for African American applicants was 42.4 percent.

The city also agreed to put $145,000 into a settlement fund to award back pay to African Americans affected by the city’s use of the examination. Those applicants may also receive priority in future hiring.

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