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Firefighters want lieutenant's exam dismantled

A city audit is raising questions about how the fire department promotes firefighters.
January 13, 2014 9:46:31 PM PST
A city audit is raising questions about how the San Francisco Fire Department promotes firefighters. This comes on the heels of a successful lawsuit over the validity of a 2008 lieutenant's exam. It's a legal decision that could lead to massive changes.

A jury awarded 15 current and former firefighters nearly $4 million in back wages and damages. But Monday they asked the judge to go even further and dismantle the test taken by more than 700 firefighters six years ago.

The legal fight centers on the lieutenant's exam offered by The San Francisco Fire Department in 2008. Chief Joanne Hayes White said it was fair and job related, but in October, a jury ruled otherwise, saying the test was tainted and ultimately led to age discrimination against 15 firefighters who sued.

Now their lawyer is essentially asking the judge to demote everyone who passed the test and order a new one.

"We're asking the court to roll back the 234 people who've been appointed and send them back to the place they were in before the exam," firefighters' attorney Murlene Randle said.

If the judge agrees, it would reshape the entire department because many of those lieutenants have gone on to become captains and battalion chiefs, who would also be bumped back..

Mindy Talmadge is spokesperson for the fire department. She also took and failed that 2008 lieutenant's test but maintains, as does her boss, that the exam was valid.

"The results were fair and equitable and those that got promoted were deserving of the jobs at the time," she said.

Mark Kane, one of the plaintiffs, is now retired.

"We didn't want it to come this far," he said. "There were plenty of opportunities for this to be arbitrated; no one would listen."

The plaintiff's attorney says there is room for compromise as long as a new test is developed. The city attorney's office is waiting to see how the judge rules before deciding what action to take.


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