By Fiona Ortiz
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The United States government filed a civil rights lawsuit against Chicago on Friday, saying the city discriminated against foreign-born police officer candidates by enforcing a 10-year continuous residency requirement.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and seeks damages, including lost wages, for police candidates who were discriminated against and a court order to change hiring practices.
The lawsuit comes as Chicago recruits new police officers for the first time in three years at a time of heavy criticism for use of lethal force by Chicago Police Department officers.
"Chicago, through CPD, has pursued policies and practices that discriminate against individuals born outside the United States because of their national origin," the lawsuit said.
Reuters was not immediately able to reach city press officers for comment.
The lawsuit says Masood Khan, born in India, and Glenford Flowers, born in Belize, took and passed the police department's written exam in 2006 but their applications were rejected because they had not lived in the United States for 10 years.
At the time, the Chicago police department required candidates to have lived 10 years continuously in the United States prior to taking the exam for potential new hires. There is an exception for those who were abroad for military service.
The department has since changed the residency requirement to five years, according to the lawsuit.
In June 2008 the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated the cases of Khan and Flowers and found they were subjected to discrimination in hiring on the basis of national origin, in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, according to the lawsuit.
The commission referred the case to the Department of Justice after trying and failing to reach a settlement with the city.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
The lawsuit said that Chicago has not demonstrated the residency requirement is necessary and that it has a statistically significant adverse impact on candidates born outside the country.