BOSTON (CBS) – The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is the first stop for people filing employment, race or gender discrimination claims. The I-Team finds it is chronically underfunded and has a backlog that keeps citizens waiting for years to have their cases heard.
Jane lost her sales manager job in 2010 in the midst of the great recession.
“There were no jobs anywhere. So I was devastated,” she said.
She believed she’d been discriminated against because of her gender. Jane asked us not to reveal her full name out of fear it will harm her job prospects. Because she was unemployed and had no money for a lawyer, she took her case to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. It’s a decision she now regrets.
“That I would be considered nothing but a file moving with a stack of cases from one desk to another, I never would have done it. I’ve had three years of agony,” she said.
Jane’s case was passed from investigator to investigator. Three years after filing, she finally received MCAD’s decision only to find the lead investigator on her case was an intern.
“Three years and finally end up with an intern. To me that was reprehensible,” Jane told WBZ’s I-Team.
Jane’s case isn’t unique. In fact, it is the norm. Jamie Williamson, Chair of MCAD admits it often takes three or even four years for a case to come to a conclusion.
“You’ll see cases where they sit for three years because we can’t get to them,” Williamson said.
The problem isn’t a lack of will. It boils down to a persistent backlog of more than 1700 cases. Williamson says with current staffing her department just can’t keep up.
“We are always faced with a backlog until we are right sized,” Williamson claims.
“Given the backlog, can MCAD really fulfill its mission?” WBZ asked.
“Can we do it over a period of years, yes. Is that justice? Probably not,” Williamson replied.
Politicians have been promising to end the MCAD backlog for the better part of two decades. Still, people seeking help, many for employment issues, are faced with the biggest backlog in New England.
The I-Team found that while states like New York and Connecticut assign one investigator to every 75 cases, the average case load in Massachusetts is upwards of 300.
Funding has remained relatively stagnant, with two percent increases or less each year. In 2014, the legislature gave MCAD a bigger bump to it’s roughly $5 million budget.
“It is like the bathtub with the plug taken out of the bottom. It continues to be a challenge. But we have again a 10 percent increase in this year’s budget over the previous fiscal year,” said Senator Stephen M. Brewer, chair of the Ways and Means Committee.
That 250,000 increase will make only a dent in the backlog.
Working her way through the MCAD process eliminated one of Jane’s choices. By the time she realized MCAD was ruling against her the three year statute of limitations to file in court had expired.
Of her frustrations with MCAD she said, “Either change it. Get rid of it. Or fund it so it can work as it’s supposed to.”
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