Many of the recent news stories about discrimination and the police have to do with claims of racial tensions between law enforcement and the community. However, in a recent lawsuit against the City of Chicago, the police department may have been discriminating against the very people trying to become police officers.
Chicago is home to the second largest city law enforcement agency, after New York, with over 12,000 sworn police officers. The test to become an officer is only available every few years. With the Chicago Police Department's website stating an officer earns $72,510 per year after 18-months, plus benefits, thousands of hopefuls take the exam to try and earn a spot with the department. However, not everyone who applies was found to be eligible.
Two men, Masood Khan and Glenford Flowers were hoping to become police officers with the Chicago Police Department. As part of the application process, both took the department's test in 2006. Waiting another two years, both men were rejected in 2008. The reason the department gave for rejecting the applicants was that the men were foreign-born, and had not resided in the US for at least 10 years.
Khan was born in India and Flowers was born in Belize. Neither had lived in the US for a 10-year period before applying to the police department. The men then took their case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After an inquiry, the EEOC found that these two, along with other similarly situated applicants, had been discriminated against by the city. The EEOC was unable to settle the case with the Chicago P.D., and referred the case to the Justice Department in 2014.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) brought a lawsuit against the police department for their discriminatory hiring policy. The suit stated the residency requirement had a "statistically significant adverse impact against candidates born outside the United States." Now the Chicago City Council has approved a $3.1 million settlement in the case.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employer is prohibited from refusing to hire any individual because of an individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
In 2011, the police department changed their residency requirement to 5 years. However, the DOJ has requested the department stop using any continuous residency number as a requirement for hiring police officers. Of the foreign-born individuals who applied to the Chicago Police Department, only 8% of those had lived in the US for more than ten years. The other 92% were rejected due to the residency requirement.
Currently, the frequently asked questions (FAQ) section on the police department's website does not indicate a residency requirement as a minimum qualification. It only states that an applicant must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident at the time of hire. However, the police department's policies regarding residency status may still be unclear until the details of the lawsuit settlement are made public.
If you or someone you know was discriminated against by a potential employer on the basis of your race, religion, or national origin, you should speak with an experienced attorney who understands employment discrimination cases. Where you were born should not limit your career choices or be a barrier to your future. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients the justice they deserve and equal treatment under the law.