Cobb County Considers DOJ Consent Decree Over Fire Department’s Hiring Practices

Cobb County’s Board of Commissioners is set to deliberate on a proposed Consent Decree with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding alleged discriminatory hiring practices within the Cobb County Fire Department.

The DOJ has raised concerns about two specific practices employed by the Fire Department between 2016 and 2020, arguing that they disproportionately affected African American applicants. These practices include the use of credit checks as a screening tool and the rank-order usage of the Accuplacer standardized test in 2020. While the DOJ found no evidence of intentional discrimination, the Fire Department voluntarily discontinued these practices in 2020.

If approved, the Consent Decree would entail several actions by the County, including the payment of $750,000 in monetary relief to eligible individuals and the potential hiring of up to 16 firefighters from the affected applicant pool, with limited retroactive seniority benefits.

The Consent Decree must receive approval from the federal district court, which will conduct fairness hearings before finalizing the terms. An independent Claims Administrator will oversee the claims process and inform eligible individuals about their options. To be considered for hiring, individuals must meet minimum qualifications and current requirements.

Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Lisa Cupid emphasized the county’s commitment to resolving the matter with the DOJ and ensuring inclusive hiring practices. Fire Chief Bill Johnson expressed satisfaction that the DOJ’s review found no intentional discrimination and affirmed the department’s dedication to recruiting and retaining qualified firefighters.

The board is scheduled to discuss the consent decree during its upcoming meeting on April 9.