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New York City Parks Department Class Action

In 1999, twenty black and hispanic employees of New York City's Parks Department filed complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that the department had engaged in discriminatory practice with their process of hiring and promoting workers.


The EEOC concurred that there was reasonable cause to believe that these discriminatory practices did indeed occur, which opened up the case for litigation.


Henry J. Stern, the city's Parks Commissioner at the time, began a recruiting program known as "Class Of" that resulted in the hiring of many young graduates of the nation's top universities, almost all of whom were white.


Through further investigation, it became apparent that not only did the department discriminate against their minority employees by targeting whites for vacant positions, but they also failed to establish any form of an impartial process of promotion. For years the department did not publicize vacant positions; in fact, most vacancies were filled by recently-graduated whites without interview.


In a phone interview with the New York Times, Robert White, a black employee of the department since 1979 and the parks and recreation manager for district 11 in Harlem, said: "I have nothing against these young people. But I had to earn my stripes to move up the ladder. What we have found is that for us, the ladder is 16 feet tall but for them it's only 8 feet tall."


The lawsuit Wright v. Stern, first filed in 2001, accused the Parks Department of systemic discrimination through their hiring and promoting tactics between the years of 1997 and 2004.


In 2006, New York City agreed to a settlement of over $21 Million dollars. Beldock Levine & Hoffman's Cynthia Rollings's worked alongside the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in reaching this monumental settlement.


Cynthia Rollings

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