Cobb County, GA

04/04/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/04/2024 06:32

Board to consider entering into a Consent Decree with Dept. of Justice

Cobb County to Consider Entering Into Consent Decree with the US Department of Justice over Fire Department's Prior Hiring Practices
Feds say past hiring practices unintentionally impacted African American applicants

April 4, 2024 -- Cobb County's Board of Commissioners will consider entering a Consent Decree with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the DOJ's contention that two of the Cobb County Fire Department's hiring practices from 2016 to 2020 disparately impacted African American applicants.

Specifically, the DOJ asserts that the Fire Department's use of credit checks as a screening device from 2016 to 2020 and its rank-order usage of the Accuplacer - a standardized test - in 2020 were not sufficiently job-related or consistent with business necessity. The DOJ found no evidence of intentional discrimination by the Fire Department, and the Department voluntarily ceased using both practices in 2020.

The Consent Decree, if approved by the Board of Commissioners, would require the County to:

  • Pay $750,000 in monetary relief to be distributed pro-rata to eligible individuals.
  • Hire up to 16 firefighters, with limited retroactive seniority benefits, from the pool of eligible individuals.

The federal district court must approve the consent decree for it to become effective. As part of that process, the district court will conduct two fairness hearings before final approval of the decree's terms. An independent Claims Administrator will notify eligible individuals about the claims process. To be considered for hire, each individual must be part of the eligible group and meet minimum qualifications and other current requirements.

"I have been in continuing communications with our county attorney's office on this matter," said Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Lisa Cupid. "In 2020, our fire department ceased the practices that led to the DOJ's contentions. I look forward to resolving this with the DOJ to end any practices that could have unintended disparate or discriminatory impacts. Our goal is and should always to be inclusive in finding the best candidates to work in Cobb County."

"We are pleased that the DOJ's comprehensive review confirmed no intentional discrimination in our hiring practices and identified no issues with our current process," said Fire Chief Bill Johnson. "We are dedicated to continuing our efforts to recruit, hire, and retain well-qualified firefighters to serve Cobb's citizens."

The board will consider the consent decree during its regular meeting on April 9.