Jefferson County back in court over unfair hiring practices

Monday, Jefferson County employees described unfair hiring practices in federal court.

The county is on trial for not following a federal consent decree. That order puts measures in place to ensure female and African American job applicants{}are given equal consideration.

The county attorneys admitted to not meeting certain criteria. But they told the federal judge the county is ready to make more changes to ensure fair hiring including randomly selecting applicants to fill{}168 positions immediately.

Those 168 positions and nine others were jobs "of concern."

County attorneys say they would be open to other changes to fairly fill the nine jobs as well.

But the plaintiffs' attorneys are tired of hearing promises. They want to see more action.

For thirty years, there have{}been complaints about Jefferson County's hiring process.

"I{}still get complaints from young people who are so frustrated. They come in and put in applications for jobs and they still don't get proper notification about why they can't go to the next level for the application process," said Rep. Mary Moore, (D) Birmingham.

A{}federal order called for better record keeping, training and oversight to ensure discrimination against women and African Americans stopped. But the county is back in court for failing to meet all requirements.

"The county at several points came to the judge and represented the county would do certain things and didn't do them. It's not didn't do them the next day, didn't do them for ten years," said Rowan Wilson, an attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Improvements have been made with the addition of the HR department in 2004, a structured interview process in 2005, and nepotism and harassment policies.

But the county agrees- hiring practices remain unfair when it comes to truck drivers, waste water officers, skilled laborers and security guards.

In court, there was even{}discussion about a computer database job. Wilson says 75 percent of the qualified applicants were African American, but only whites were hired.

Wilson also mentioned an auditor position for which 41 percent of the qualified applicants were women but only five of the more than 30 hires were female.

A{}former{}IT manager recalled wanting to hire two African Americans. But he says his supervisor said no due to their lack of knowledge about a program. He claims the white man hired didn't know it either.

The county's attorneys expressed a willingness for more guidance to correct the wrongs.

Can it be done?

"Yes but not tomorrow," said Wilson. "It will take a long time."

County attorneys wouldn't comment. County leaders couldn't because several will have to testify.

Commissioners Sandra Little Brown and David Carrington, as well as Tony Petelos and the HR director are expected to take the stand during the course of this two week hearing.