University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name United States v. City of Austin EE-TX-0470
Docket / Court 1:14-cv-00533 ( W.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
On June 9, 2014, the United States Department of Justice filed a complaint in the Western District of Texas on behalf of African-American and Hispanic applicants to entry-level firefighter positions against the City of Austin. The plaintiff alleged that since at least 2011, the fire department's ... read more >
On June 9, 2014, the United States Department of Justice filed a complaint in the Western District of Texas on behalf of African-American and Hispanic applicants to entry-level firefighter positions against the City of Austin. The plaintiff alleged that since at least 2011, the fire department's practice of requiring applicants to pass an examination in order to be considered for entry-level firefighter positions has had a disparate impact on the hiring of African-Americans and Hispanics, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They seek injunctive relief to stop the defendant's discriminatory hiring practices.

Specifically, they alleged that the African-Americans and Hispanics passed the 2012 test at a rate that was statistically significantly lower than white applicants, and that by only selecting the top 1500 candidates to move on to interview stage of the process, the City of Austin increased this disparity. The city also used the scores as a component of an applicant's ranking on the fire department hiring list, leading to African-Americans and Hispanics being processed for hire at a significantly lower rate than whites. They also alleged that a similar testing and ranking process used in 2013 will have a similar disparate impact, that these tests are not essential to the duties of firefighting, and that there are alternative means for screening candidates that would not have a discriminatory impact.

Also on June 9, 2014, the US and the City of Austin offered a joint settlement agreement pending a fairness hearing before the court. The agreement provides that: 1) the city will develop a new nondiscriminatory test for screening applicants but that the city can use parts of its previous tests for filling up to 90 open positions immediately; 2) The city will provide back pay to African-American and Hispanic applicants from 2012 who claim to have passed the work-related parts of the test but not the unrelated parts; 3) The city will make 30 priority appointments of Hispanics and African-Americans (the shortfall of diversity candidates in 2012 due to the discriminatory hiring practices), with retroactive seniority dates; and 4) There will be a fairness hearing to rule on the legality and equitability of the agreement, with any objections from interested parties such as the firefighters' union and those who may claim back pay. The parties also proposed a second fairness hearing for the court to approve or modify any individual relief awards. As proposed, the court will enforce the decree for four years, until the city's back-pay obligations are satisfied, or until the implementation of a new, nondiscriminatory testing procedure; whichever comes later but no more than eight years.

On June 11, 2014, the District Court (Judge Lee Yeakel) granted the motion for provisional approval of the consent decree and scheduled a fairness hearing on the consent decree.

The Austin Firefighters Association (AFA) filed a motion to intervene in the case but on September 15, 2014, the Court (Judge Yeakel) denied their motion because at the time of the suit the AFA did not have a current collective bargaining agreement with the city. Furthermore, the AFA failed to show that they had an interest that could not be satisfied by other means, such as collective bargaining and the objection process within the settlement agreement.

On October 18, 2014, the Court (Judge Yeakel) denied the AFA's motion to reconsider their motion to intervene, at which point the AFA appealed to the Fifth Circuit (docket # 14-51132). In a per curiam opinion, the Fifth Circuit denied the AFA's motions to stay the proceedings in the lower court, and to expedite their appeal. The appeal is ongoing.

On October 29, 2014, the first of the fairness hearings was held before Judge Yeakel. The AFA filed an objection and all parties are awaiting an opinion from the Court.

Benjamin St. Pierre - 11/02/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Fire
Discrimination-area
Hiring
Testing
Discrimination-basis
National origin discrimination
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Impact
Pattern or Practice
National Origin/Ethnicity
Hispanic
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e
Defendant(s) Austin Fire Department
Plaintiff Description Black and Hispanic applicants for entry-level firefighting positions
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2014 - 2018
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Megacases, Diversity, and the Elusive Goal of Workplace Reform
Written: Mar. 01, 2008
By: Nancy Levit (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law)
Citation: 49 B.C. L. Rev. 367 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Second Generation Employment Discrimination: A Structural Approach
By: Susan Sturm (Columbia Law School)
Citation: 101 Colum. L. Rev. 458 (2001)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:14-cv-00533-LY (W.D. Tex.) 01/21/2016
EE-TX-0470-9001.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 06/09/2014
EE-TX-0470-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff United States' and Defendant City of Austin's Joint motion for Provisional Entry of Consent Decree and Scheduling of Fairness Hearing 06/09/2014
EE-TX-0470-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Intervenor's Motion to Intervene 09/15/2014 (W.D. Tex.)
EE-TX-0470-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appeal of Final Judgment 12/01/2014
EE-TX-0470-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment / Mandate [Dismissing without prejudice] 05/22/2015 (W.D. Tex.)
EE-TX-0470-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint motion [with proposed intervenors] 06/05/2015
EE-TX-0470-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [granting supplemental relief] 06/05/2015 (W.D. Tex.)
EE-TX-0470-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Yeakel, Earl Leroy III (W.D. Tex.)
EE-TX-0470-0002 | EE-TX-0470-0005 | EE-TX-0470-0007 | EE-TX-0470-9001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bloom, Shayna (District of Columbia)
EE-TX-0470-0001 | EE-TX-0470-0003 | EE-TX-0470-9001
Burrell, Meredith (District of Columbia)
EE-TX-0470-0001 | EE-TX-0470-0003 | EE-TX-0470-9001
Jackson, Toni Michelle (District of Columbia)
EE-TX-0470-9001
Kennebrew, Delora L. (District of Columbia)
EE-TX-0470-0001 | EE-TX-0470-0003
Phoenix, Candyce Danielle (District of Columbia)
EE-TX-0470-9001
Sacks, Sonya Lagene (District of Columbia)
EE-TX-0470-9001
Samuels, Jocelyn (District of Columbia)
EE-TX-0470-0001 | EE-TX-0470-0003
St. George Blake, Trevor (District of Columbia)
EE-TX-0470-0001 | EE-TX-0470-0003 | EE-TX-0470-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Ashe, R. Lawrence Jr. (Georgia)
EE-TX-0470-0003 | EE-TX-0470-0006 | EE-TX-0470-9001
Barsness, Paul R (Georgia)
EE-TX-0470-0003 | EE-TX-0470-0006 | EE-TX-0470-9001
Crawford, Bernard Lee Jr. (Texas)
EE-TX-0470-0003 | EE-TX-0470-0006 | EE-TX-0470-9001
Kennard, Karen M (Texas)
EE-TX-0470-0003 | EE-TX-0470-9001
Other Lawyers Deats, B. Craig (Texas)
EE-TX-0470-0006 | EE-TX-0470-9001
Janes, Sara E (Texas)
EE-TX-0470-0006 | EE-TX-0470-9001
Terrazas, Kevin James (Texas)
EE-TX-0470-0004 | EE-TX-0470-0006 | EE-TX-0470-9001

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