Philly Captain Alleges Reverse Discrimination

A white fire captain has filed suit against the city of Philadelphia claiming reverse discrimination.

Fire Captain Lawrence Boyle, a 19 year veteran, took the civil service examination for battalion chief and despite never being provided with the results was removed from the promotional eligibility list.  He alleges that “promotions for the position of Fire Battalion Chief were based on race and systematically favored black candidates over better-qualified white candidates. Boyle was one of the white candidates denied promotion because of his race.”

The complaint filed last Friday in US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania contains just two counts, one alleging violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the other a Constitutional claim based on a violation of the 14th Amendment.

Here is a copy of the complaint. Boyle v Philadelphia

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
  • Kevin

    I have read Capt. Boyle's complaint. He makes the allegation that the civil service is biased against whites, but does not say how.  Secondly is he never recieved the results of the exam, how can he know the his removal from the eligibility list was arbirtary?

    • Kevin

      Good points. There are a number of concerns I have with the complaint – including no mention of a complaint being filed with the EEOC, no allegations of discrimination under state law, no allegations under 42 USC 1983… and the same points you raise. Perhaps we will see an amended complaint.

  • E4

    Reverse? What does that mean? Discrimination is discrimination period. That statement alone implies only whites are racist making it a racist statement.

    • E4 – I think you have a valid point burried somewhere in what you just said, but I am not sure I get the hostile attitude.

      As I think you know – reverse discrimination is used to distinguish between two types of discrimination victims. When a victim of discrimination receives a benefit (job, promotion, assignment, etc.) that benefit inevitably comes at the expense of someone else. The US Supreme Court has said it is Constitutionally permissable in certain circumstances to bestow benefits upon the victims of discrimination. Like it or lump it, that is the law.

      When someone UNLAWFULLY gives a benefit to the victim of past discrimination… which in turn burdens a second victim – we refer to this second kind of discrimination as reverse discrimination. It is a definition. The purpose of the definition is to help us mere mortals try to understand what the victim of the discrimination is claiming.

      It does not imply that one type of discrimination is Ok and another is not (if you read that into it then it is your personal biases that are being superimposed on an otherwise neutral definition).

      It certainly doesn't imply that "only whites are racist"… (I am still shaking my head at that one) and I disagree with your characterization of my post as a "racist statement". Reverse discrimination is a definition, nothing more, nothing less. It is a term that clarifies what the victim is claiming.

      What I believe you mean by your angry post is that discrimination in any form is wrong… and I don't think there is a person anywhere who would disagree with you. Where the disagreement comes in is under what set of circumstances should a benefit be bestowed upon the victim of discrimination (direct or reverse) when it does happen.

  • E4

    Not angry or hostile, that is a typical attorney or judge reply to something they don't like hearing.  Just simply making a state the the term reverse discrimintation should not even exist.  Race should not even be checked in any box for promotion, what does race matter?  If you want to talk about discrimination, let us look at affirmative action. 

    Anyway not wanting to argue with you I don't agree with term is all. 

    • E4

      In a perfect world there would be no discrimination. We both know that is not the world we live in. Your stereotypes are only allowing you to think of discrimination as something minorities can claim and reverse discrimination as something white males claim. The definition of reverse discrimination is not that narrow.

      Let me try to make this simple. FF White is white. FF Black is black. FF White and FF Black take a promotional exam for  captain. FF Black comes out first on the test.

      FF White seeks to challenge the test claiming it is not a valid test and it discriminates against whites. He points to the fact that the last 10 officer promotions have all used the same test and has produced nothing but black officers. FF White is claiming discrimination. THIS IS NOT REVERSE DISCRIMINATION… IT IS DISCRIMINATION.

      Let's assume a court agrees with FF White, orders a new list to be established and an entirely new testing process. FF Black undergoes the new testing process and does not get promoted. In this case FF Black is now in the position of having to challenge the new testing process – and we call that challenge reverse discrimination to distinguish it from the original discrimination. FF Black is challenging the remedial efforts made to address the discrimination to FF White.

      If that doesn't make sense to you – let's talk in terms of hose lays. It's like saying there is no such thing as a reverse lay because no matter which way you lay the hose the water will be flowing in the same direction.

      When we use the term reverse lay – it has a certain meaning that is not about the direction the water is flowing. It is about the process used. Sure – the end result is the same, water flows from the hydrant toward the fire – but it helps us understand and communicate with each other about what is going on.

      To the extent you are unhappy ("not angry or hostile") with my use of the term "reverse discrimination" – or my explanation – I assure you – we are 100% on the same page when it comes to discrimination in any form being wrong. But just as a non-firefighter may not appreciate the distinction between a forward lay and a reverse lay – I think you may not recognize the need to distinguish between discrimination and reverse discrimination.


Check Also

Louisiana Firefighter Files For Whistleblower Protection

A St. Tammany Parish firefighter who accused his fire chief of misconduct and was then himself placed under investigation, has filed suit alleging whistleblower retaliation. Fire District 12 firefighter Thomas Williamson accused Fire Chief Stephen Krentel with stealing department air conditioning units and having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

Death From Gurney Fall Prompts NY Suit

The estate of a woman who died after falling off a gurney is suing the fire department that was transporting her to the hospital. Anne E. Stahlberg was being transported by a North Bellmore Fire Department ambulance to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bethpage, New York on January 1, 2017.