Sixteen years after they were passed over, dozens of people on Tuesday got a second chance to become a Chicago firefighter.
The Chicago Fire Department is making good on a federal appeals court ruling to hire 111 African American firefighters after a civil rights case alleged discrimination.
At 8 a.m. Tuesday at Robert J. Quinn Fire Academy, the department began retesting those who took the exam 15 years ago.
During the 1995 entry exam, 1,800 test takers were found to be well qualified, but a lawsuit alleged 78 percent hired by the department were white and that selection was random, not taking into account physical testing.
After a series of back-and-forth legal battles over the years, Chicago was ordered in May to hire 111 black firefighters and pay a total of $30 million to nearly 6,000 clients listed in the class-action lawsuit known as the Lewis case.
Would-be firefighters who chose other career paths and those who chose to bypass the "jobs lottery" to identify 750 candidates to take Tuesday's physical abilities test will receive cash awards of at least $5,000 per person.
In the end the case could cost the city up to $50 million, and for every month the hiring is delayed, the city must pay an additional $500,000 in back pay.