WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into a settlement that, if approved by the court, will resolve the department’s allegations that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Department of Correction (collectively Massachusetts) violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against female applicants for entry-level correction officer (CO) and correction program officer (CPO) positions at the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MDOC).
Title VII’s prohibitions of discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin or religion proscribe not only intentional discrimination, but also the use of employment practices (e.g., physical tests) that result in disparate impact. Unless the employer can prove that such practices are job related and consistent with business necessity, employment practices that disproportionately screen out applicants based upon sex do not identify the best qualified candidates and violate the law. The United States’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston, alleges that Massachusetts’s use of a physical abilities test to pre-screen and select applicants for CO and CPO positions with the MDOC disproportionately excluded female applicants since 2007 and was not job related and consistent with business necessity.
The Justice Department, along with Massachusetts, filed a joint motion today requesting that the court provisionally approve the settlement agreement executed by the parties and schedule an initial fairness hearing regarding the terms of the settlement agreement.
The settlement agreement requires that Massachusetts no longer use the physical abilities test challenged by the United States for pre-screening and selecting CO and CPO positions with the MDOC and requires that Massachusetts develop a new lawful selection procedure that complies with Title VII. The settlement agreement, if approved by the court, also requires that Massachusetts pay $736,000 towards back pay to female CO and CPO applicants who were harmed by the hiring practice challenged by the United States and who are determined to be eligible for relief. Additionally, female CO and CPO applicants determined to be eligible for relief under the settlement agreement may receive a priority offer of hire to a CO and CPO position with the MDOC. All CO and CPO applicants must pass a physical test and other lawful selection procedures to be considered for priority hire relief. Female CO and CPO applicants eligible for priority hire relief and those currently employed with the MDOC who are entitled to delay hire relief are also eligible for retroactive seniority relief.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, whether that discrimination is intentional or the result of employment practices that have discriminatory impact,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The department commends Massachusetts for working to put in place a new physical test that complies with Title VII and enables Massachusetts to choose qualified applicants for CO and CPO positions, and to provide relief to those female applicants who have been harmed by the prior employment practices challenged by the department.”
More information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp/index.html .