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Austin Fire Department being investigated for hiring practices

It's important for businesses to follow local hiring laws regarding diversity and equal opportunity. Failing to do so may result in employment discrimination litigation. Not even city and state organizations are exempt from the requirement to follow employment law.

The Austin Fire Department is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for their hiring practices. Officials say they have information that indicates the department might discriminate against minorities during their hiring process. The Justice Department's assistant attorney general has authorized the action to find out if the fire department has a pattern of discriminating against African Americans and Hispanics seeking employment with the department. Employment discrimination against minorities is a violation of federal law.

Austin's fire chief has expressed a desire to showcase the department's improvements to their hiring process, and looks forward to the investigation as an opportunity to dispel any notions of discrimination. The Deputy City Manager affirms the city's commitment to equal opportunity employment.

With any business, hiring practices should reflect the city's demographics as well as maintain a staff of qualified, professional employees. The Austin Fire Department has attempted to staff minorities according to federal guidelines since 1977. Although details about what prompted the fire department's investigation aren't available, officials in charge of the department seem confident their hiring strategies will pass the investigation.

As Texas continues to be a leading state for racial diversity, it may not be unusual for civil rights issues regarding employment to come to light from time to time. Knowing the law regarding equal employment may help to protect businesses from lawsuits.

Source: American-Statesman, "Feds to investigate whather Austin Fire Department discriminates against minorities," Ciara O'Rourke and Tony Plohetski, April 23, 2013

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