NATION IN BRIEF : ALABAMA : Firefighters Win Reverse Bias Case

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A federal appeals court panel sided with white firefighters in a reverse bias claim, dealing a potential blow to hiring and promotion goals based too rigidly on race in Birmingham, Ala. The three-judge panel of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously found that the Fire Department's promotion system illegally uses harsh racial quotas in the name of eliminating past discrimination. Birmingham, once a hotbed of racial violence, had no black firefighters until 1968. With the help of a 1981 consent decree that allowed race-based promotions, about one-third of the department's 680 employees are black. There are more than 50 black supervisors, including one chief. But the appeals court struck down the formula that led to many of those promotions, saying it resulted in promotions being made "woodenly and reflexively in rigid adherence to a quota system."

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