Brookline Settles Claims With African American Firefighter for $11 Million

The town of Brookline, Massachusetts has agreed to pay an African American firefighter $11 million to settle a dispute that dates back to 2010 and resulted in at least five separate lawsuits.

Gerald Alston claims his problems began when a supervisor left a voice mail calling him a racial slur while he was off on a work-related injury. The same officer had previously accused him of “faking an injury.” After Alston complained, he claims supervisors retaliated against him culminating in his going off in 2012. He was thereafter terminated in 2016 for refusing to return to duty.

Among the legal proceedings were a 55-page federal court discrimination lawsuit filed against the city and union, civil service proceedings, civil service appeals, and state court lawsuits. Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a Civil Service Commission ruling that found Alston had been wrongfully terminated. The SJC held:

  • “When a municipality’s own violation of a tenured employee’s rights has prevented the employee from returning to work, as here, the Town cannot use that inability to work as just cause for discharging the employee from his tenured position.”

News of the settlement broke several weeks ago. However, it was not until Brookline held a Town Meeting this week where the voters approved of the settlement that the settlement was formally approved. Here is more on the Town Meeting.

Here are several of the Fire Law headlines from the past 11 years regarding Gerald Alston’s legal proceedings:

Brookline Firefighter’s Discrimination Suit Joined By Others

Massachusetts Firefighter Terminated Amidst Allegations of Discrimination

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

Mass Judge Denies Stay of Civil Service Reinstatement Order

Massachusetts SJC Upholds Reinstatement of Brookline Firefighter

Court Rules Union Did Not Discriminate Against Black Firefighter

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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