Judge Says Massaschusetts Biased

The state still promotes firefighters based on written tests rather than skills and ability.


The state discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants for firefighter jobs by relying on 2002 and 2004 civil service exams that were unfair to minorities, a federal judge ruled.

Massachusetts has failed over 30 years to create a more equitable exam for minorities seeking firefighter jobs throughout the state, despite court order to do so, U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris ruled Tuesday.

Saris said the state has continued to rank applicants based on how well they score on written exams that test cognitive ability, even though such tests were found discriminatory in the early 1970s. A 1974 federal consent decree ordered that a more fair exam be created.

"These cognitive examinations do not predict how quickly a firefighter can climb stairs with equipment or raise a ladder," Saris wrote in a 68-page decision in favor of four black firefighter applicants in Lynn.

The judge gave the lawyers for the four -- Jacob and Noah Bradley, who are brothers, Keith Ridley and Jared Thomas -- 30 days to propose a remedy. The state and the city of Lynn then will have 30 days to respond.

Terence Burke, a spokesman for Attorney General Tom Reilly, which defended the state against the suit, said officials are reviewing Saris' decision, and had no comment.

Lynn Mayor Edward "Chip" Clancy said his city has followed state Civil Service guidelines for hiring applications, and will continue to do so if the exam is changed.

The class-action suit was brought on behalf of all minority firefighters who took the 2002 and 2004 firefighters exams in hopes of joining fire departments in Boston, Lynn and other communities.

The state administered a new, revamped civil service test in June, but the results have yet to be released.

Copyright 2006 by TheBostonChannel.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.