Massachusetts Cancels Promotional Exams for Fire Departments

Fire departments in Massachusetts are in an uproar after the Human Resource Division of the state’s civil service system announced a cancellation of all promotional testing following a ruling by a Superior Court judge that a promotional exam administered to police officers was discriminatory.

In Tatum et al. v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, et al., C.A. No. 0984-CV-00576 (Mass. Sup. Ct. 2022), the judge concluded that the testing format used by the HRD created a racial disparity against Black and Latino officers, and could not be validated since it relied upon “rote memorization” that had not been shown to be job related.

Massachusetts is a rather unusual state in so far as many fire departments fall under the state’s civil service system. As such, fire department promotions are administered by the state. Since state’s exams for fire departments are subject to the same deficiencies as the police exam, the HRD decided to announce the cancellation pending promotional examinations.

Here are a few of the announcements relative to the exam cancellation:

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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