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RI Department of Corrections Settles Employment Discrimination Lawsuit With Justice Dept.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


The State of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections have reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to resolve an employment discrimination lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants engaged in 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.

“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. The Justice Department is committed to enforcing Title VII to remove unlawful discriminatory barriers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. 

The Settlement

Under the agreement, the State will adopt and use Title VII-compliant selection device(s) to hire entry-level correctional officers. 

The settlement agreement also provides for the priority hiring of 18 eligible African American claimants and 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 people affected by the settlement agreement are afforded an opportunity to comment on its terms. 

The Complaint

If approved by the court, the proposed settlement agreement 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.   


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