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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Justice Department Settles Employment Discrimination Lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement agreement with the State of Rhode Island (the State or Rhode Island) and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOC) to resolve its lawsuit alleging that the defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination against African American and Hispanic applicants for entry-level correctional officer positions in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Title VII is a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin or religion.


In a joint motion filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, the Justice Department and Rhode Island asked the court for provisional approval and entry of the settlement agreement. Under the agreement, the State will adopt and use Title VII-compliant selection device(s) to hire entry-level correctional officers. The settlement agreement further provides for the priority hire of eighteen (18) eligible African American claimants and nineteen (19) eligible Hispanic claimants who were screened out of the hiring process by the employment tests challenged by the United States. All eligible claimants for priority hire relief must meet the employer’s otherwise lawful hiring criteria. The settlement further provides for an interim hiring process to address the State’s immediate operational needs as well as a monetary relief fund of $450,000 to compensate eligible claimants who were affected by the practices challenged by the United States. The settlement agreement is subject to court approval and the parties have requested, jointly, that the court schedule a fairness hearing so that those persons affected by the settlement agreement are afforded an opportunity to comment on its terms.


The proposed settlement agreement, if approved by the court, will resolve the Title VII complaint filed by the Justice Department on February 10, 2014. In its complaint, the Justice Department alleged that RIDOC’s use of written and video examinations as part of its multi-step selection process unnecessarily screened out African American and Hispanic applicants from further consideration in the hiring process resulting in a disparate impact against these applicants without the requisite showing that the employment practice is job-related and consistent with business necessity.


“This Settlement Agreement is the product of negotiations between the United States and the State of Rhode Island and has resulted in the expansion of equal employment opportunities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to enforcing Title VII to remove unlawful discriminatory barriers.”


The case was brought by Trial Attorneys David Reese, Kunti D. Salazar and Emily Given of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section. Additional information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Civil Rights Division’s website at www.justice.gov/crt.

Updated September 19, 2017