Hispanic Guard Files Complaint

Discrimination Charged

Firing the first salvo in what could become a legal battle over alleged discrimination in the Harvard police department, a former security guard has filed complaints with at least one government agency charging that his firing last year was discriminatory.

Officials at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) confirmed last week that former guard Juan Figueroa had filed complaints against both the University and his own union, AFL-CJO Local 254.

Charles Rooney, director of the Boston office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), would not confirm or deny if the former guard had filed a complaint with his agency.

Figueroa, who is Hispanic, said he was fired on April 6 of last year by Manager of Operations for Security Robert J. Dowling after being found off his post. Figueroa has acknowledged being off his post, but said the punishment was severe because he had never been disciplined before in nearly four years on the job.

"EEOC and MCAD are investigating the situation now," Figueroa said last week. "I don't know if there'll be any further action."


Figueroa is one of at least four former and current guards who say they have hired attorneys to seek action against Harvard because of alleged discrimination. Richard Spicer, a Waltham attorney who is representing Figueroa, said he would not comment on the case until later this week.

Figueroa is not the first guard to take a complaint about his firing to MCAD. Former guard Rolando Diaz, who is Hispanic, filed a charge against Harvard in 1990 protesting his termination. The complaint was dismissed by the commission.

Figueroa said last week that he believes his firing was ethnically-motivated. Dowling refused to comment on the issue, referring all questions to Associate Director of Labor Relations Carolyn R. Young '76, who also would not comment.

Figueroa said last week he had filed the complaint against his union because it did not adequate represent him when he appealed the firing. He said in an interview in January that union business agent Francis E. Fanning had prevented him from taking his grievance to an independent arbitrator after he had exhausted other appeals.

"I believe that Mr. Fanning was leaning on management's side, and he didn't stick up for union employees," Figueroa said in January.

Fanning said last week that Figueroa made the decision not to take the case to arbitration without being pressured by anyone in the union. Fanning said the union had handled Figueroa's grievance well, and refused to comment further.

In the past year, nine former and current security employees charged they were discriminated against by their supervisors. And some guards complained that Dowling condoned on-the-job harassment of guards by supervisors, a charge that Dowling has denied.

In February, Former FBI agent James A. Ring began interviewing security guards as part of an investigation into the charges Ring's probe has not been completed, and Figueroa said last week he had not been contacted for an interview.

Police Chief Paul E. Johnson and General Counsel Margaret H. Marshall did not return phone calls last week seeking comment for this story