Foster, et al. v. City of Pittsburgh

Discriminatory hiring practices in Pittsburgh Bureau of Police reflected by few African-American hires

Court/Assoc.: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Attorneys/Firms: Edward Feinstein, Ellen Doyle, & Pamina Ewing (Feinstein, Doyle, Payne & Kravec, LLC); Witold Walczak & Sara Rose (ACLU-PA)

The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal class action lawsuit on August 23, 2012, against the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police (BOP) to force the department to end its discriminatory hiring practices. According to results of a Right to Know Law request, since 2001 the Bureau of Police has hired 368 officers, only 14 of whom are African-American.

According to the lawsuit, the low number of African-American hires stems from entrenched problems with the screening and hiring process, including favoritism toward applicants with family or friends who are already police officers and decisions based on purely subjective criteria.

In spring 2013, the parties agreed to suspend the litigation and bring in Dr. Leaetta M. Hough, an industrial organization psychologist and one of the country’s leaders in developing and implementing staffing and performance management systems. After a six-month investigation, Dr. Hough concluded in her February 2014 report that ”the overall system has an adverse impact on African-American applicants” and that “the system should be revised and improved.” 

Following a year of mediation, the plaintiffs and the city announced on May 7, 2015, that they had reached a settlement agreement that provides for both a process to reform the hiring system and payments to class members who attempted to obtain jobs with the BOP.

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