Appeals Court: BOSTON POLICE DEPT. v. RONNIE C. JONES

KeywordsPolice, Compensation. Civil Service, Police, Reinstatement of personnel. Labor, Police, Contempt, Damages, Overtime compensation. Public Employment, Police, Reinstatement of personnel. Damages, Back pay, Interest, Mitigation. Interest. Judgment, Interest. Municipal Corporations, Police, Governmental immunity. Practice, Civil, Contempt, Declaratory proceeding

On November 10, 2020, the Appeals Court issued the latest decision in an almost two decades long legal battle over the discharge of certain Boston police officers when they failed a hair test for the presence of cocaine.  The Civil Service Commission upheld the discharge of four officers but ordered reinstatement without loss of benefits for six officers.  That order was upheld with a slight modification by the Superior Court, which decision was upheld by the Appeals Court in 2016.  After settlement negotiations were unsuccessful, a second round of litigation ensued on a contempt claim.  Both parties appealed the Superior Court judgment to the Appeals Court.

The decision needs to be read and cannot be fully summarized here.  But some of the key issues addressed by the Appeals Court of interest to municipal attorneys include:  As relates to the officers – 1. claim for estimated overtime and detail pay- denied by Appeals Court as contrary to precedent; 2.  Claim  for post judgment interest- denied in absence of clear waiver of immunity; 3. Claim for additional compensation to relieve them of the tax burden caused by receiving large lump sums in back pay- denied in absence of law or clear waiver of immunity for such claims.  As relates to the City –  1.  Opposing prejudgment interest- such interest allowed under G.L. c. 231, 6C; 2.  Reduction of back pay due to mitigation issues-  While recognizing obligation to mitigate damages, the Appeals Court upholds trial court’s determination that City did not meet sufficiently its burden of proving plaintiffs did not adequately mitigate their damages; Appeals Court discusses what employer must show on mitigation; 3. Claim that the back pay award should be offset by any earnings and wages that the officers earned from second and third jobs and overtime following the termination of their employment.  Appeals Court agrees with trial judge that those earnings, out of fairness, should not be deducted from the back pay award.

Click here for the full decision of the Appeals Court.

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