The Boston Globe Highlights Race Discrimination Lawsuit Brought by Messing, Rudavsky & Weliky Client Against Massachusetts State Police
The Boston Globe recently highlighted the race discrimination lawsuit brought by a Messing, Rudavsky & Weliky client against the Massachusetts State Police (MSP). Ellen Messing and James Weliky represented Orlando Riley, a veteran African-American New Bedford police officer, through a successful seven-day jury trial that resulted in a $130,000 back pay and emotional distress award.
Officer Riley filed suit after enduring a racially biased hiring process at the State Police. After applying for the MSP’s 80th Recruit Training Troop (RTT) in 2009, the State Police rejected Officer Riley’s candidacy after completing his background investigation, the final phase of the hiring process. The rejection came despite Riley’s perfect entrance exam score and successful completion of all other MSP physical and interview requirements.
The MSP trooper who conducted Officer Riley’s background interview treated him with suspicion, accused him of lying, and insulted his New Bedford home. The same investigator did not employ a hostile or disbelieving attitude to the white applicants and treated similar data from white applicants more leniently.
Officer Riley’s lawsuit “opened a window into the State Police recruitment process and raised new questions about the fairness of its background investigations,” the Globe reports.
As part of the trial, held in federal court, MRW attorneys presented an expert in employee selection, an organizational psychologist who testified that the MSP’s disproportionate under-hiring of minority candidates like Officer Riley may result from biased selection methods. According to the Globe, “The number of black troopers … decreased slightly between 2014 and 2018, state data show. As of last July, there were 116 black troopers and 127 women on the force — 5.3 percent and 5.8 percent of sworn officers, respectively. By comparison, about 9 percent of all Massachusetts residents are black and more than 51 percent are female.”
Though Officer Riley has been vindicated in part by the jury’s verdict, Attorney Messing explained to the Globe that he should be admitted to the MSP now: “the only way to make him whole from that discrimination would be to give him what he lost … He wants to be a state trooper.” MRW continues to represent Officer Riley in his pursuit of justice and equality.