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High court rules firefighter was wrongfully fired after reporting racist work environment

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    ROOKLINE, Massachusetts (WBZ) — This week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said Gerald Alston was wrongfully fired after complaining of a racist work environment at the Brookline Fire Department.

“The truth is the truth and I knew it was going to come to the surface and right now it vindicates me, it fills me with joy,” Alston said.

Vindication, but not justice. The former Brookline firefighter said he’s relieved his truth has been validated by the state’s highest court.

“I was relying on my union to step up and help and they didn’t do so either. I feel as though like there has to be something in place for the little people,” Alston said.

The decision upholds a civil service ruling that details how Brookline officials failed to protect Alston from retaliation, and now becomes a seminal moment in a painful and public legal battle that’s been ongoing since 2010. Alston said his supervising Lieutenant Paul Pender inadvertently left a voicemail on his phone using the N-word.

“Even though certain members of the board admitted that they knew that this particular superior officer said these things and did this in a racist manner, they didn’t want to support me or be on my side. They felt like brushing it under the rug,” Alston said.

Alston said he’s eternally grateful to the Brookline Justice League who took his case pro bono.

Bernard Greene, the chair of Brookline’s Select Board, who voted to fire Alston, has not returned WBZ’s request for comment.

The only board member who voted against the town’s appeal, Raul Fernandez, said Brookline should use this moment to re-center racial and economic justice in the community.

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