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Back in 2007, the Bush Administration rewarded the firemen of New York City, 343 of whom died on 9/11, by suing them for disparate impact discrimination in hiring. In 2009 a Democratic judge ruled the test devised by the city of New York was racially/ethnically biased because it presented readings on fire safety and then asked hard questions, such as: what kind of chainsaw should you use to cut through a steel door? You could pass the test either by having strong reading comprehension skills or by studying firefighting intensively.
From the New York Post:
FDNY’s new entry exam asks about everything but firefighting
By Susan Edelman March 20, 2016 | 6:06am
FDNY candidates will take an entry exam that quizzes them on topics like African killer bees and on math questions such as comparing veggie chips to pretzels, but little on firefighting.
With the city planning to give the first FDNY entry exam in five years in 2017, critics say the test has been dumbed down since a judge ruled a former exam discriminated against minorities.
A recently posted preparation manual asks aspiring Bravest to practice by watching videos produced by Lowe’s hardware store on how to install a toilet, replace a sink, and lay a tile floor.
“It’s great to prepare firemen for their second jobs as plumbers,” an insider quipped. “The FDNY might as well call this the ‘Side Job Preparation Guide.’ ”
To test reading comprehension, the tutorial asks applicants to read a 1998 Tampa Tribune article, “Natural Born Killers,” on African bees migrating to the United States.
On math, it first gives tips on solving word problems, then a sample exercise showing the nutritional labels for vegetable chips, rice cakes, trail mix and pretzel twists.
The first of 10 multiple-choice questions says: “Firefighter Harris ate one cup of Fruit & Nut Trail Mix. What percentage of Saturated Fat did she have (% Daily Value)?” Other questions ask test-takers to compare the snacks for fat, carbohydrates and protein.
In another exercise, applicants read labels on bottles of aspirin and acetaminophen, then answer questions such as: “Which medicine relieves pain from toothaches?”
… The test is apparently meant to level the playing field so those more familiar with firefighting don’t have an advantage.
… In January 2010, Brooklyn federal Judge Nicholas Giraufis ruled the FDNY exams first given in 1999 and 2002 discriminated against black applicants and halted their use. The city later agreed to pay $98 million in back pay to those minorities passed over, and give some a second chance to join the department.
The city and the Vulcan Society, a fraternal group of black firefighters, devised a new exam that Garaufis approved in 2012. Of 9,400 who scored high enough to be hired, 42.3 percent were minorities — more than ever.
As I wrote in 2012:
Now, the FDNY has finally learned the lesson that La Griffe du Lion pointed out years ago: If you want to please the feds, you can minimize disparate impact (percentage point differential) of the hiring test by making it extremely easy, then hiring randomly.
The 2012 test approved by Judge Garufis was passed by 97% of test-takers.