Brookline, MA – Thanks to a revised decision by the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission, Gerald Alston will be reinstated as a firefighter in Brookline. Alston, a black man, was let go from the Brookline Fire Department in 2016. He filed a civil rights lawsuit to appeal his termination, arguing that he was being let go as a result of his complaints about a racist remark by an officer.
Back in 2017, the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission dismissed firefighter Alston’s case against the Town of Brookline without granting him a hearing, originally siding with the Town's argument that Alston was fired because he was unfit for duty. Last year, a Superior Court judge asked the commission to reconsider the case. In a decision last week, the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission sided with Alston, saying: "The Town’s own actions and inactions were the reasons that made it impossible for Firefighter Alston to return to work, which formed the basis of the Town’s decision to terminate his employment." The commission found that the Town's actions regarding Alston's case were “arbitrary, capricious, and in violation of Firefighter Alston’s rights under the civil service law to be treated fairly.”
The racist incident that Alston reported occurred in 2010. Firefighter Alston reported that the N-word was left on his voicemail by then-Lieutenant Paul Pender. When confronted about it, Pender said that the slur was not directed at Alston; Pender had been driving while leaving the voicemail and claimed that he had intended the racial slur for another driver. Pender was suspended for two shifts and soon promoted to captain.
Alston had served the Brookline Fire Department for 11 years before being fired, according to the Boston Globe. After reporting the racist remark, he says he experienced an increasingly hostile environment including an anonymous note that said "Leave". Alston was placed on administrative leave in 2013 after the department said he had made threatening statements. The Town maintained that Alston was let go in 2016 as a result of his “incapacity to perform the essential functions of his firefighting position” (via Boston Globe).
On February 14, 2019, the Commission ruled for Alston, reinstating him to his former position at the Brookline Fire Department with pay.