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Appeals court affirms lower court ruling in Akron firefighter promotion case

Beacon Journal staff report

The city of Akron continued its losing streak in a lengthy battle over the promotion of firefighters Monday when the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision.

The appeals court ruled that Judge John Adams didn’t abuse his discretion when he ordered the city in July 2011 to promote 18 firefighters who were then on the job.

“The city fails to show that ordering the promotions would negatively impact the public interest,” the court said in its 16-page decision.

Akron promoted the firefighters to comply with Adams’ order, though the city called the promotions “provisional,” meaning they could be demoted depending on the outcome of the federal case.

The firefighters sued the city in 2006, saying promotional exams taken in 2004 were discriminatory. A federal jury agreed in 2008, awarding the firefighters $2 million in damages.

The jury found that a promotional test Akron gave was skewed against white applicants for the captain’s rank and black candidates for lieutenant. The jurors also said the results of the lieutenant’s exam discriminated against candidates over the age of 40.

Akron challenged the verdict and award and was granted a new trial on damages only. In a surprise move, Adams ordered the city to promote the firefighters just as the new trial on damages was about to start. He noted openings that the city had in its ranks that weren’t previously available.

The new damages trial was finished in November 2012 and Adams hasn’t yet issued a ruling, according to the appeals court decision.

The price tag for the case is expected to be large, with the city pegging the back pay at as much as $600,000, which doesn’t account for damages that also could be awarded.


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