Business, Police/Fire

Baltimore County reaches settlement with U.S. Department of Justice in hiring discrimination case

TOWSON, MD—County Executive Johnny Olszewski this week announced that Baltimore County has reached a settlement agreement to resolve claims by the U.S. Department of Justice alleging unintentional hiring discrimination by the Baltimore County Police Department in the years prior to Olszewski taking office.

“Our Police Department should look like the communities it serves and, even prior to this lawsuit, I joined Chief Hyatt to begin efforts that increase the diversity of our police force,” Olszewski said. “This settlement will help hold Baltimore County accountable as we continue working toward that critical goal—while also helping to further ensure our Police Department can best serve all of Baltimore County’s residents.”

“Ensuring residents see themselves reflected in our ranks is a critical step towards strengthening our relationship with the communities that we are sworn to serve,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt. “While maintaining our exceptional hiring standards, we are taking committed action to diversify our department, and we will continue building on these efforts in the months and years ahead to improve our capacity for diverse recruitment to make a strong department even stronger.”

In August of 2019, the DOJ filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against Baltimore County and the Baltimore County Police Department under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The lawsuit alleged that the Department engaged in a pattern or practice of unintentional employment discrimination against African-American applicants for entry-level police officer and cadet positions between 2009 and 2016 by making hiring decisions based on the results of hiring examinations that were not job-related and that disproportionately excluded African-American applicants.

As part of the settlement agreement, the United States acknowledged that the practices in question were established prior to the current administration and that the Olszewski administration is committed to resolving the issues alleged in the Complaint.

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Already, the Police Department has taken steps to increase the recruitment of African-American applicants, and Chief Hyatt has hired the Department’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. In addition, as part of a reform package announced in June, Olszewski and Hyatt committed to hiring an independent third-party organization to conduct a comprehensive review of the Department’s hiring and recruitment practices.

Under the Settlement Agreement, Baltimore County will:

Refrain from further use of the allegedly unlawful written examinations
The County discontinued use of the test in 2019. The County will retain a test developer to create a new written examination that does not have a disparate impact on African-American applicants. As this new examination is developed, the County and the DOJ have agreed to utilize the National Police Officer Selection Test in the interim period to support immediate operational needs.

Make 20 priority hires
The County agreed to make twenty priority relief hires of African-American claimants who took and failed the previous written examination. To be eligible for hire, the African-American claimants must otherwise meet the minimum qualifications for the position at the time they applied and meet current minimum qualifications for the position. These individuals will be entitled to retroactive seniority and hiring bonuses.

Provide back pay
The County has agreed to create a settlement fund of $2,000,000 to be distributed as back pay to eligible claimants. The County will hire a claims administrator to administer the settlement fund.

The settlement has been submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland for approval.

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