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Louisiana Discrimination Case Wraps Up 32 Years Later

How long is too long? When it comes to the duration of consent decrees intended to address discriminatory practices in fire departments, that is a question that many firefighters ask. In the case of Leesville, Louisiana it took 32 years for the city and the US Department of Justice to finally put an end to a discrimination suit.

The action dates back to December 9, 1980 when the DOJ filed suit alleging that the police and fire department’s’ hiring practices violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The city and the DOJ entered into a consent decree intended to address concerns over the hiring of African Americans and females.

Last November the DOJ announced that it was lifting its demand for a consent decree noting that the hiring practices in both departments had improved significantly. Last Wednesday, the city announced that the case had been finally settled, ending the 32 years of court oversight.

Leesville’s mayor, Robert Rose, commended the work of both departments and the leadership of Police Chief Greg Hill and Fire Chief Dewaine Lawson, in bringing the matter to a close.

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About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.