Officials told applicants who scored below 89 but above 64 that although they passed the test, they likely would not be hired because of the large number of people who scored 89 or above. The majority of those in the top-scoring group were white; only 11 percent were black.
People are supposed to sue within 300 days after an employment action they seek to challenge as unlawful.
The city says the clock started when it announced the use of the test scores on Jan. 26, 1996. The first lawsuit in the case was filed on March 31, 1997, 430 days after the city announced the results.
But the plaintiffs say a new act of discrimination also happened each time the scores were used in hiring firefighter trainees between May 1996 and October 2001.