Court upholds nullification of PG minority plan

April 15, 1997|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- A move by Prince George's County to revive an affirmative action plan that put more women and minorities into firefighting positions faltered in the Supreme Court yesterday.

The court rejected the county's appeal without comment. That action left intact a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond last fall nullifying a plan put into effect in 1984.

Prince George's officials had contended that an atmosphere of racial intolerance still exists in many volunteer fire departments, making blacks feel unwelcome and less likely to join. Volunteers are a main source of hiring for the county Fire Department. Women have felt unwelcome because of harassment, the county argued.

The county has a strong interest in moving against race and sex bias, and continues to need affirmative action, the appeal argued.

The county's attorney in the case, Henry R. Lord of Baltimore, said yesterday the county has no alternative plan in mind.

In the mid-1970s, the county had 390 firefighters, 2.7 percent minorities and no women. The loss of federal revenue sharing was threatened if the county did not move against discrimination, county attorneys said.

By 1984, minorities made up 19 percent of the firefighting force and women 3 percent. As a result of the plan, 38 percent are blacks, 15 percent are women, 2 percent are Hispanic-Americans and 0.2 percent are Asian-Americans.

The plan was challenged by six firefighters who claimed they were denied jobs because they were white or male.

Pub Date: 4/15/97

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