Town Approves $11M to End Race Discrimination Claims

October 7, 2021

BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) — Residents of Brookline have approved $11 million to end a yearslong legal battle with a firefighter who said he was subjected to racial discrimination while working for the fire department.

The settlement with Gerald Alston, who is Black, was approved 186-28 at a Brookline town meeting Tuesday night after three hours of discussion, The Boston Globe reported.

The settlement between Alston’s attorneys and the Brookline Select Board was reached last month, but needed town meeting approval to be finalized.

“As I’ve noted, this 11-year saga has brought discredit to the town of Brookline,” Select Board vice chair Raul Fernandez said. “Win or lose, further litigating this matter will reinforce the narrative that Brookline is a racially hostile community.”

Some town meeting members proposed a lower amount, but board members said $11 million was the lowest Alston’s attorneys were willing to accept, and without the settlement the case would have gone to trial.

The dispute dates to 2010 when Alston’s superior mistakenly left a voicemail for Alston in which he referred to a motorist who had cut off his son with a racial epithet.

Alston refused to return to the job and stopped communicating with the department, which he said was due to his fear of working in a racially hostile environment.

Alston, a firefighter since 2002, was placed on leave in 2013 and fired in 2016.

He sued the town in federal court 2015 alleging racial discrimination.

The state Civil Service Commission ordered Alston reinstated with back pay in 2019, and he has technically been on paid leave since.

In April, the highest court in Massachusetts ruled that the town was wrong to terminate Alston.

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