Massachusetts Firefighter’s Case Returned to Civil Service Commission For Reconsideration

A Brookline firefighter has prevailed in his appeal of a Massachusetts Civil Service Commission decision that upheld his 2016 termination. Gerald Alston was fired in 2016 after years of efforts to address his workplace behavior failed.

According to city officials, Alston threatened violence to colleagues and used illegal drugs at work. He then rebuffed city efforts to get counseling and submit to random toxicology screening, resulting in his termination.

Alston, who is African American, claims he has been the victim of overt race discrimination in the department for many years. In his appeal he argued that the Civil Service Commission refused to take that racism into account instead focusing on the narrower grounds presented by the city.

Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Douglas H. Wilkins agreed with Alston, ordering the case returned to the Commission to consider whether Alston was in fact the victim of racial bias. He noted that because Alston has been complaining about race discrimination in the department for years the possibility exists that he was fired for refusing to “endure an unlawful, racially hostile environment.”

Alston also has a discrimination suit against the city pending in US District Court.

More on the story.

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.
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