Massachusetts Civil Service Exams Canceled After Court Case | Rare Techy
Fire unions are getting hot under the collar after they said some of their members received notices that civil-service promotional exams had been canceled in light of a recent Boston-based court case.
“Our members have had the rug pulled out from under them,” Sam Dillon, head of Boston Fire Union International Association of Fire Fighters Local 718, told the Herald, adding that some of his members were notified Wednesday.
A 2009 suit from several black or Hispanic police officers, Tatum et al v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. So promotions are delayed or missed.
A Suffolk Superior Court judge heard the matter in a bench trial this summer — ruling two weeks ago when Judge Douglas Wilkins issued a stunning finding against the state Human Resources Division.
“The evidence is very clear. “This defeats any justification for HRD’s reliance on biased tests to identify the best candidates for promotion to sergeant,” the judge wrote. “Furthermore, HRD was aware of better appraisal practices but continued to use the same, unnecessarily discriminatory format. “There is no doubt in this court’s mind that the overwhelming evidence demonstrates the known and unjustified disparate impact of HRD’s format and that the Commonwealth interfered with plaintiffs’ rights to be considered for promotion to police sergeant without racial or national bias.”
The civil service did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did Governor Charlie Baker’s office.
Civil-service promotional exams are usually held once a year, and one that has already been delayed for Boston firefighters to become district chiefs — will take place in two weeks.
According to an email to a Boston fire official obtained by the Herald from the state Human Resources Division, “After careful consideration, in light of the court decision, HRD has decided to cancel the scheduled firefighter promotional exam. November 19, 2022 It further evaluates the decision and decides on next steps.
HRD continued, “We regret this development and will work with your appointing authority over the coming weeks as more information becomes available.”
Dillon said he sees it as an attempt to move away from using the civil service, which the union likes because it provides protection.
“The state Civil Service Commission needs to move forward with these tests,” Dillon said, noting that the court case is about the Cope tests, which are different than the ones for Jacks. “We see no connection between the police case and the firefighter promotional exam, because there is none.”
Rich MacKinnon of the Professional Firefighters Statewide Union of Massachusetts said his organization has brought in a lawyer to file an emergency order to “investigate this matter” — specifically why the police case means the firefighter exams should be stopped.
He told the Herald that he received the notice on Wednesday as well, noting that studying for the civil services exam is a long, tedious process.
“It will cause problems with public safety,” he said of the lack of promotions.
He said the state suggested departments could abandon the civil service and instead go to “single assessment centers” for promotions, but he, like Dillon, tried to avoid that and stuck it out to his more than 80 civil service residents.
It is not clear what the immediate consequences of this are. The cops sat for their promotional exams in September, and one source said the unions for Boston’s top officers and detectives are confident they won’t overturn this or any other previous exams.
Expect next year’s police exam to be held around the same time.
Fire department promotions to lieutenant and captain come Feb. 3, which Dillon and McKinnon raised as a problem.
As for the court case, this summer bench trial was to determine liability, and the second phase of the trial will take place on March 20 to see what the judge will order as a consequence of this new ruling.