Boston, MA – Seven members of the State Police Association of Massachusetts who were previously suspended and an additional Trooper who had returned to duty after seeking a religious exemption to the Commonwealth’s vaccine mandate have prevailed in an extended legal battle with the Commonwealth and Department of the State Police.
An independent arbitrator has found that the Department of the State Police did violate the Trooper’s rights to anti-discrimination and affirmative action when they were denied reasonable accommodations for their sincerely held religious beliefs.
On Friday, August 4th, an arbitrator ruled in favor of the eight Troopers, resulting in seven of them being given the option to be reinstated. As part of the award handed down by the arbitrator, the Department of the State Police must contact all impacted Troopers to offer them their previous positions with full back pay retroactive to their initial suspension. They have also been awarded their full seniority rights and all benefits minus any interim earnings and/or unemployment compensation.
Originally filed in 2021, the Association has maintained that the Department of the State Police and Baker Administration failed to provide proper consideration and reasonable accommodations to our members whose sincerely held religious beliefs prevented them from getting the Covid-19 vaccination.
Asked for comment on the victory, Association President Patrick McNamara said:
“Earlier today, I had the distinct honor and privilege of informing seven of our Troopers, who have been suspended without pay due to Executive Order 595, that they would be returning to work. This fight began in October of 2021 when the Association filed a grievance on their behalf.
Since then, the Association has been committed to making these members whole. Through this lengthy and grueling grievance and arbitration process, the Association has remained steadfast in our fight to right the injustices of the Baker Administration.
Executive Order 595 was more than just an affront to the hard-working members of the Mass State Police, it was an attack on organized labor and the rights of our members. Governor Baker and his administration refused to listen or work with our Association, but today we can no longer be ignored. These members, whose religious convictions were trampled, and who were left without pay or benefits, now can choose to return to work and will be made whole through retroactive pay and earned seniority.
I would like to personally thank and recognize the hard work of Association Vice President Luke Bonin, who continued to champion this cause through arbitration after my election to Presidency, as well as our legal team from Barrault and Associates, led by managing partner Leah Barrault. Today’s victory would not have been possible without them.
Although today is a day to rejoice and celebrate a win for organized labor, our fight is not finished.
Thirteen of our members remain out of work, unfairly terminated by the Baker Administration, and left with the scars of a spiteful and unfounded designation of being dishonorably discharged. To those who doubted our commitment and criticized our fight, today reaffirms what I have said since day one; the State Police Association Massachusetts will always defend our members’ rights.”
Managing Partner of Barrault and Associates, Leah Marie Barrault Esq. said, “The Barrault and Associates team is pleased with the outcome of this matter. The arbitrator’s conclusion that the Commonwealth, and more specifically the Department of the State Police, did not properly administer the reasonable accommodation portion of the religious exemption request process was based on sound facts. She found that eight troopers hold a sincere religious belief that conflicted with the vaccine and that they should have been afforded the opportunity to have their individual accommodation requests reviewed and not summarily discarded.
That the Department failed to provide this opportunity violated Massachusetts Law against discrimination. We were honored to be chosen by the Association to fight on behalf of these brave men and women of the State Police, and we look forward to continuing to fight on behalf of them and the thousands of public safety personnel both local and state that we serve on a daily basis.”