Jefferson County hopes to end multi-million dollar consent decree after more than 40 years

Legal battle over hiring practices ending in JeffCo?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - After 45 years of legal battles and millions of tax dollars, Jefferson County is close to ending its ongoing legal battle over its hiring practices.

The county was sued back in 1974 for racial and sex discrimination and in 1982 entered in a federal consent decree where the federal government would have to approve all of the decisions involving hiring, firing and promotions. The county admitted it had been guilty of discrimination for years.

But now a motion was filed Thursday in federal court in Birmingham by all parties involved to end the consent decree. This includes the county, plaintiffs in the case and the US Justice Department.

“This is not just huge for the employees. It huge for all the constituents of Jefferson County,” Jimmie Stephens, Jefferson County Commission President said.

For years, past county commissions did not make an effort to settle the case and come up with a fair system of hiring, firing and promotion.

“I think previous commissions just thought it would go away if we didn’t pay attention to it we won’t have to fool with it,” Stephens said.

That changed with the 2010 commission and serious efforts were made to began to settle. The new system cost the county untold millions of dollars to create. Current county commissioner Lashanda Scales said she hopes the new system works but she will be looking for future possible examples of discrimination.

“We as a county must make sure we very vigilant when it comes to black people and women having a fair and equitable opportunity here at the county,” Scales said.

The Judge in the case, US District Judge Lywood Smith must sign off on the motion. Also there will be discussions of the county paying the plaintiffs attorney fees.

Stephens said that money will finally no longer spent on this case, but on the needs of the county.

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