Boston Police Officers Sue, Alleging Discrimination in Hiring Practices

Nine black Boston police officers have filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that they were barred from advancement inside the department because of an exam that created discrimination in the workplace.

Boston employment lawyers understand that businesses and government agencies sometimes will create policies or screening procedures for employees that can be construed as discriminatory. These individuals require legal representation in order to make sure their rights are upheld.
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Employees must be treated equally, regardless of their race, religion, gender, disability, or nationality. Our nation was founded on the principle that all people are created equal, and Massachusetts and federal employment laws are designed to ensure that is the case in the workplace.

In recent years, businesses have used unemployment as a basis for discrimination, leading some lawmakers to write laws that ban companies from not hiring or not interviewing people who have been laid off because of the bad economy. Employers sometimes may treat certain employees differently than others. Sometimes, this happens not with written policies but through obvious actions. This, too, can be seen as discrimination.

According to The Boston Globe article, nine officers have sued the city, demanding that it end a multiple-choice lieutenant’s test. The lawsuit alleges that Black and Latino officers historically have done worse on the exams than white and Asian candidates.

The plaintiffs allege that of the 51 lieutenants in the city police’s hierarchy, there are only two black and one Asian men. Of the captain’s rank, which is one higher than lieutenants, there is only one Black captain, who is retiring.

City leaders declined comment to the newspaper. The complaint was filed about a year after lawyers representing 44 minority officers statewide went to trial alleging that a sergeant’s test also discriminates. A judge has yet to make a decision on that case. Whatever conclusion is reached in that case could have a drastic impact on how officers are promoted.

These civil service exams, the newspaper states, are given to most public employees who are seeking a job or trying to get a promotion. The competition among officers trying to move up the ranks is intense and under state law, authorities are required to promote those with the top scores. Experience and education are factors, but score tests end up being most important, the newspaper reports.

The plaintiffs in this case argue that people shouldn’t be promoted based on exams that are based on memorization. Leadership qualities, as well as experience and other qualifications are also important.

Boston employment lawyers understand that this is a hot-button issue, and one that could make a big impact on the way the city hires in the future. But city leaders must ensure that they aren’t creating a situation where the least-qualified individuals get the best jobs, promotions and training opportunities.

This situation will require litigation to ensure that not only current, but also future employees get the benefit of a fair hiring and promotion system. Sometimes companies and businesses don’t set up policies that are purposely discriminatory, but they can be that way. If they aren’t willing to change the policies, sometimes a court order is necessary.

A Boston business law firm, The Brown Law Firm, LLC, has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation, call Attorney Graeme Brown at 617-489-0817 or contact us through this website.

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Additional Resources:

Black police officials sue city, by Maria Cramer, The Boston Globe

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Boston Bar Assosiation