A group of MBTA employees filed a complaint against the agency today with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
The complaint against the nation's fifth-largest transit agency claims that women and Hispanics are disproportionately represented in entry-level jobs, compared with their white male counterparts, who are disproportionately holding higher-level jobs. It also said Hispanics are paid less than others with similar job titles.
"This kind of sweeping institutional bias is a matter of grave public concern which requires broad reform that only a law enforcement agency can effectuate," said Charles Wagner, one of the attorneys representing the workers, in a press release.
Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan said officials have not yet seen the complaint. But the T said last week that its diversity office agreed there was a problem in recruiting women and minorities and was focused on improving that.
Mullan also promised at last week’s MBTA board meeting to conduct a full-scale review of the T’s minority hiring and its manner of handling discrimination complaints.
“The Patrick administration, the MBTA, the [Massachusetts Department of Transportation] board, all have no tolerance for discrimination in the workplace,” Mullan said.
Between 1997 and 2005, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority was forced to operate under an equal opportunity agreement that allowed the state attorney general's office to monitor hiring, promotions, and discipline in the agency. Minorities make up more than a third of the MBTA's 6,000 employees.
The employees and the attorney involved in the new complaint attended last week’s MBTA board meeting and announced their intention to sue the T. Members of the group, known as the MBTA Latino Alliance, also chronicled their efforts over the last three years to meet with members of the Patrick administration before they decided to file suit.
“The goal here is to change the system,” said Philip Gordon, one of their lawyers. “This case is not about burying the T.”
Several minority employees who spoke at last week’s MBTA board meeting were carpenters and trades people who work part-time at the T and said they were passed over for permanent jobs in favor of white workers with less experience and qualifications. Documents obtained by the Globe show that the T investigated the complaints filed by three of the temporary workers and found probable cause to investigate the issue further.
Mullan said the findings offer proof that complaints are being taken seriously. He said solutions to improving the hiring policies would also require cooperation from the labor unions, who recommend employees for jobs in the trades.
Craig Dias, leader of the Latino Alliance, said, “maybe this is a step forward for the T."
"Maybe with the help of [Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination], the Federal Transit Administration and other federal agencies we can resolve some of these matters now.”
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