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Brockton, MA hit with $4M verdict in race discrimination and retaliation case

An African American man, Russell Lopes, recently won a $4 million jury verdict in a case against the Town of Brockton. Lopes’ attorneys argued that Brockton discriminated against him because of his race when it refused to hire him for a job with the Department of Public Works (DPW) and then retaliated against because he spoke out against the discrimination. At the time of the events, Brockton had a far lower percentage of non-white DPW employees than the non-white population of Brockton. Lopes’ attorneys uncovered evidence that they believed showed that Brockton had rigged its hiring process in favor of white applicants.

“When you looked at the evidence, you looked at the data, the facts and listened to the testimony, you realized Brockton had bent, twisted and broken every single rule they had in order to favor white people in the application process,” said Lopes’ attorney.

According to Lopes, he applied for a job with DPW and he had far more than the required 3-5 years of experience. He included reference letters and positive performance reviews with his job application. Nevertheless, Brockton told him that it decided not to hire him because of a lack of experience. Lopes tried to get an explanation for why Brockton said he lacked experience because he believed that he clearly had sufficient experience. He said that no one with the Town would give him an answer. So, he spoke to the press about what happened.

The day after a story about his situation ran in the local press, Brockton police officers appeared at his house without a search warrant and searched his house. They claimed it was to inspect for code violations but Lopes believed this was clearly an attempt to harass him for speaking out against the Town’s discrimination against him.

Brockton elected a new mayor, Bill Carpenter, after all of this happened to Lopes. Carpenter claims that he reformed DPW’s hiring practices and the work force is growing more diverse as a result.

One interesting aspect of this case is how Lopes’ attorneys used evidence about the demographics of Brockton’s DPW and how they looked at the way the hiring process favored white applicants. That is evidence usually utilized in class actions alleging systemic discrimination but Lopes’ attorneys were able to successfully utilize it in challenging an individual hiring decision.