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Racial charges in arbitration

By Andrea Lamberti

The MIT Campus Police's union is presently involved in arbitration with Institute officials in an attempt to resolve a racial discrimination grievance filed against MIT by Patrol Officer Ted Lewis, who is black.

Lewis, who has been with the Campus Police since 1983, initiated the grievance procedure in July 1989, one month after he was denied a promotion to the position of sergeant.

Lewis has also filed charges against MIT through the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination -- a preliminary step for a formal discrimination lawsuit, according to Lewis' lawyer, Alan H. Shapiro. However, the MCAD case will probably not see action for some time, he said.

In an interview, Lewis said, "I was contesting the entire promotional procedure as being discriminatory," and questioning what he sees as a contradiction between MIT's non-discrimination policy and its actions to maintain and promote minority employees.

In the grievance, Lewis claims MIT violated eight articles of its contract with the MIT Campus Police Association, including discrimination, equal opportunity, and seniority clauses.

Shapiro, Lewis' lawyer, said a fellow officer, Stephen Daley, had been promoted to sergeant after only two and a half years as an officer, while Lewis had been denied promotion despite "22 years' prior experience, including [his experience at] MIT."

Lewis also alleged that details of the promotion process -- which consists of an examination, an interview by a three-person committee, and a written application -- were not presented in an organized fashion; that information about the exam was not available until one week before the test; and that the material covered on the exam differed from what had been announced.

Both Lewis and Shapiro said that in the past 16 years, only two black officers had been promoted to the rank of sergeant.

Currently, there are four black officers on the Campus Police force, Lewis said, but only one is a sergeant.

Recommended by

review committee

Lewis' promotion denial came despite a recommendation for "serious consideration" by his interview committee. In the promotional summary, the committee wrote, "Officer Lewis gave the single best promotional interview ever witnessed by any member of the committee. His knowledge of department policies and procedures was extensive and impressively articulated."

The committee's only hesitation arose from two disciplinary actions against Lewis. If it weren't for the "minor discipline, he would have been graded a 10," the summary states.

Lewis said that it was revealed at the July 27, 1989 grievance hearing that in a meeting prior to the sergeant's exam, Glavin had decided not to accept a grievance from Lewis if he filed one.

Glavin could not be reached for comment yesterday.

MIT's defense in the grievance "rests on the fact that Ted Lewis has had a couple of suspensions," Shapiro said.

But he and Lewis contested the validity of those disciplinary actions. "We're trying to show that black officers tend to be suspended [and] disciplined more than [white officers]."

In one of those cases several years ago, Lewis received a two-day suspension for refusing to transport a non-emergency patient from Mount Auburn hospital to the MIT infirmary during a snowstorm. He felt the combination of the weather and the poor condition of ambulance which he was to drive posed a risk to the patient and driver.

By comparison, Shapiro contended that "some white officers refused to transport an AIDS patient just because the patient had AIDS, and they received no discipline."

The grievance process

Shapiro, who represents the Campus Police Association, said the Campus Police "have a collective bargaining agreement with MIT. One of the provisions is a non-discrimination clause, which basically says that the Institute will adhere to all state and federal anti-discrimination laws."

He said when unions "have unresolved grievances, [the result is] final and binding arbitration -- that's where we are now."

Constantine B. Simonides, vice president and secretary of the MIT Corporation, said, "I will not discuss what's going on in the arbitration process. The arbitration is one of the steps in a grievance process in a labor union contract situation, and we do not comment on the situation as a matter of policy."

When Lewis was not promoted, he filed a grievance under the anti-discrimination provision, asserting that bias "based on [his] race and his union advocacy" affected the decision to promote him, Shapiro said. Shapiro added that Glavin "refused to accept the grievance because she said you can't grieve a promotion."

The grievance was denied, and under the contract agreement, the grievance went to binding arbitration. The arbitrator, Mark Irvings, has already heard two days of testimony, and two more hearings are scheduled for November.

After the testimony, each side will present briefs to the arbitrator, who will make a decision within 30 days, Shapiro said.

At the least, if the arbitrator rules in Lewis' favor, the "immediate remedy" would be to promote Lewis and grant pay going back to July 1, 1989.

However, Lewis is seeking additional damages, contending that because the parties involved agreed in the contract to abide by federal and state laws, they should follow the rules for remedying discrimination, which can include attorney fees, punitive damages, and emotional damages.

Simonides said MIT "will follow the [arbitration] process. It is legal and well-specified."

Issue goes deeper than

this case, Lewis says

Both Lewis and Shapiro believed this issue goes far beyond this particular case. Shapiro said the "most disgusting" aspect is that MIT is "constantly proclaiming itself to be a place of equal opportunity," and that a qualified minority was passed over for promotion.

Simonides said he did not know if there was a general problem, but stressed that MIT strives to promote diversity. "It is definitely a goal of MIT to increase the representation of minorities who are underrepresented here," he said.

Lewis criticized MIT's reaction to the case, saying, "When something like this is brought out, MIT needs to get involved."