Cleveland FD accused of discriminating against minority, female candidates in hiring process

The city's mayor rejected allegations made by a federal commission that the fire department's testing process for applicants was discriminatory


Robert Higgs
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland

CLEVELAND – A federal commission has accused Cleveland’s fire department of discriminating against blacks, Hispanics and women and threatened to sue if the city does not correct the violations.

In a letter to the city, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission questioned testing used to sort out applicants to the department, which has three women among more than 700 fire personnel.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has accused Cleveland's fire department of hiring discrimination against black, Hispanic and female candidates. Three out of the city's 700 fire personnel are women. (Photo/Cleveland Fire Facebook)
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has accused Cleveland's fire department of hiring discrimination against black, Hispanic and female candidates. Three out of the city's 700 fire personnel are women. (Photo/Cleveland Fire Facebook)

Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration disputes the allegations.

“The city disagrees with the findings contained in the determination letter received from the EEOC that the city has discriminated against black, Hispanic, and female firefighters and individuals applying for employment with the city’s Division of Fire," the Jackson administration said in a statement to cleveland.com. “The city is presently reviewing these matters and anticipates having further dialogue with the EEOC in the near future.”

Jackson spokeswoman Latoya Hunter Hayes said the EEOC indicated it would contact the city shortly and that Cleveland is ready to discuss the allegations with an aim toward settling the case.

Ultimately the EEOC could pursue litigation against the city if a settlement cannot be reached.

The EEOC would neither confirm nor deny that it had sent a letter of inquiry to the city, citing strict confidentiality rules.

Cleveland has publicly acknowledged the need to diversify the ranks in its fire department. In October, the city helped sponsor a job fair in Glenville in hopes of attracting female candidates. About 50 women attended that event.

Two of the three women in the department are nearing retirement.

The city did not immediately make available a racial and ethnic breakdown of the fire department employees, but most of the rank and file are white men. The chief, Angelo Calvillo, is of Hispanic descent.

A study published in March by the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s U.S. Fire Administration found that only about 6% of all fire department jobs nationally are held by women.

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©2019 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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