Massachusetts Ex-Firefighter Wins $11M in Racial Discrimination Suit

In Summary

Gerald Alston has been awarded an $11 million settlement following a racial discrimination lawsuit he filed in light of a racist incident involving a fire commander of a Brookline, Massachusetts department in 2015. 

A former Black firefighter in Brookline, Massachusetts, has been granted an $11 million settlement six years after filing a racial discrimination suit against the town and others, per The Boston Globe’s Katie Redefer.  

Alston worked as a firefighter since 2002 before being placed on administrative leave in 2013, then fired in 2016. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in his favor in April, finding the town’s handling of his racial discrimination allegations “woefully deficient and insensitive.” 

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The conflict Alston found himself at the center of began in 2010, when his boss left him a voicemail in which he used a racial term to describe a motorist who had cut off his son, per the Associated Press. Alston said he was afraid of working in a racially unfriendly environment, so he refused to return to work and stopped interacting with the department.  

Following three hours of heated debate, Brookline town meeting members voted 186-28 in favor of paying the $11 million settlement reached by the town and Alston’s legal team in mid-September—a dollar amount some board members found “too high” and others found to be not enough, all things considered. 

“The truth is, the town of Brookline is most definitely a racist town. I think this is difficult for you to hear, but it shouldn’t be,” said town meeting member Kimberley Richardson, per Redefer. “The town discriminated against Gerald Alston, the town retaliated against Gerald Alston, the town caused Gerald Alston emotional distress, and now the town needs to do the right thing.” 

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Advisory committee member Chi Chi Wu said they’ll go to trial if a settlement in the lower amount of $6 million passes, adding they wouldn’t have this “stunningly awful” case if the town hadn’t allowed Alston to be “ostracized, isolated, marginalized, because he complained about racism.”

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