City of Boston Employee Wins $10.9 Million in Treasury Department Discrimination Suit

A jury found a pattern of discrimination in the City's Treasury Department.

boston city hall

Boston City Hall Photo by Naquib Hossain on Flickr/Creative Commons

A Boston jury awarded a City Hall employee a $10.9 million verdict Friday in a discrimination and retaliation suit in Suffolk County Superior Court.

Chantal Charles, a Haitian-American who worked as a senior administrative assistant in the City’s Treasury Department for nearly 30 years, filed a complaint against the City and her supervisor, First Assistant Collector-Treasurer Vivian Leo, on March 5, 2012.

Charles alleged that City Hall had denied her pay raises, promotions, overtime pay, and compensation for performing a supervisor’s duties. Leo and the City argued that Charles had been passed over for promotions because she had not applied for the positions in question, which they say were filled with qualified people. Per collective bargaining agreements, they reasoned, the City can only consider those who apply.

“The Treasury Department generally has failed to promote black employees to higher level management positions, and is one of the least racially diverse departments in the City with one of the highest pay gaps between white and non-white employees,” Charles’ lawyers said in a release.

The jury found that Leo and the City had not only engaged in a pattern of discrimination against black employees, but that they had also retaliated against Charles when she filed a charge of discrimination at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. The jury awarded Charles $10 million in punitive damages, $500,000 for emotional distress, and $388,159.83 in economic damages.

“The allegations made in this suit happened under a previous administration,” Laura Oggeri, spokeswoman for Mayor Marty Walsh said in an email. “The city will likely appeal this verdict.”