CITY HALL — A City Council committee signed off Monday on a $3.1 million settlement for discrimination in Police Department hiring, even as a prominent aldermen said the case "is getting stranger and stranger."
"I'm just bothered by this," said Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th). "I thought we were fair."
The payment would settle a federal suit filed only last week by the U.S. Department of Justice, but dating back to Police Department hiring 10 years ago under Mayor Richard M. Daley.
At the time, the city had a requirement that all applicants must have resided in the United States the previous 10 years. According to Jane Elinor Notz, first assistant corporation counsel, 47 applicants were disqualified on that specification.
Yet federal law prohibits banning employment based on country of origin, and an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation determined there was "discrimination," according to Notz. Long-term negotiations with the EEOC and the Department of Justice resulted in the settlement and the procedural filing of the suit last week.
Even so, Ald. Edward Burke (14th), chairman of the Finance Committee considering the settlement, said "common sense" would dictate that, if the city can compel its police officers to be city residents, it can also mandate citizenship.
Told that wasn't the case, but that a five-year U.S. residency requirement imposed under Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2011 passed legal muster, Burke said, "This is getting stranger and stranger."
Notz, however, said that data bore that out, in that 47 applicants had been denied on the 10-year citizenship requirement from 2006-2011, but only one or two on the five-year requirement in the five years since. Thus, she added, the new regulation was "less discriminating" and was allowed by the federal government.
According to Notz, the settlement will pay for eight of the disqualified applicants to be hired with retroactive retirement benefits and back pay, and with $10,000 going to each of the other 47 applicants denied employment on the old restriction.
The measure passed, with only Sposato voting against, and heads to the full City Council for final approval Wednesday. Yet Burke asked Notz to look into the municipal code to see if the city could impose a citizenship requirement.
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