BOSTON — A lawyer for suspended MBTA safety director Cynthia Gallo is calling the suspension “retaliation” for Gallo’s complaints about gender pay inequity at the T.
“Ms. Gallo has done nothing wrong,” attorney Inga Bernstein said in a statement. “She is being targeted because she filed a complaint at the [Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination] after the T failed to address serious gender pay equity problems and because she has continued to push the T to deal with these problems.”
Gallo was suspended with pay on Thursday. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority would not comment. “It is MBTA practice not to discuss personnel matters in the media,” spokesman Joe Pesaturo wrote in an e-mail.
Bernstein’s statement continued: “Unfortunately, the retaliation has very serious safety implications for the T; basically, they froze her out and made her a persona non grata because of her complaints, at a time when it has needed her knowledge and expertise more than ever.
“One can only hope that the T will realize it’s making a big mistake but, frankly, historically that’s not been their strong suit. I’m sure the truth will all come out in the end but, in the meantime, what they are doing is illegal and is causing unwarranted harm to Ms. Gallo. It’s also all incredibly upsetting and painful for Ms. Gallo.”
Allegations of discrimination have surfaced previously at the MBTA. In 1999, MBTA employee Hiram Clifton claimed he’d suffered racist taunts by supervisors for almost a decade. A jury awarded Clifton $5.5 million; the case was settled for $2.45 million.
In 2001, former T administrator Roberta Edwards sued the authority for retaliating against her when she defended other employees who had raised concerns about discriminatory practices. A jury awarded Edwards $7.6 million, but her case was later settled for $2 million. Bernstein, who represents Gallo in the current case, also represented Edwards.
Those cases and other complaints forced the attorney general’s office to intervene. Between 1997 and 2005, the office monitored the T’s hiring, promotion and discipline practices to ensure the agency was operating within equal opportunity laws. The oversight expired in 2005 when the T was found to be in compliance.
Recently, the specter of discrimination has returned, with particular focus on the MBTA diversity office itself. In 2008, a former employee filed suit against diversity chief Jeanne Morrison. The suit claimed Morrison had said lying is part of Hispanic culture.
The diversity office was under fire again earlier this year. Almost a dozen MBTA employees publicly testified at an authority board meeting that they believed the office had failed in its mandate to prevent discrimination at the T.