EEOC rules in favor of fired Miss. trooper

Published 1:10 pm Thursday, May 13, 2010

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled in favor of a Mississippi state trooper who alleged his firing was racially motivated.

Michael McField, 33, of Horn Lake, was one of two troopers who spoke publicly about alleged discrimination in the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol. He was fired in July for alleged insubordination and unprofessional conduct.

The EEOC recommended Tuesday that McField get back wages from July 2009 and $50,000 in damages. But Department of Public Commissioner Steve Simpson, a former circuit judge, told The Clarion-Ledger that he does not intend to reinstate McField. The agency is not bound by the EEOC ruling.

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The EEOC said an investigation established “reasonable cause” to believe McField, who is black, was discriminated against because of his race. An internal review board consisting of McField’s peers upheld the firing, as did a hearing officer with the state Employee Appeals Board. He has an appeal pending before the full Employee Appeals Board.

McField said he was transferred from DeSoto County to Holmes County in the spring of 2009 after the NAACP filed an EEOC complaint in January alleging discrimination on behalf of all black troopers.

McField said that five years back, white troopers in Alcorn County called him and other black troopers “monkeys.”

In response to the NAACP complaint, the EEOC last summer issued a report stating it had found evidence of discriminatory action and suggested a reconciliatory agreement, which the department also would not sign. The investigation was turned over to the Justice Department and is pending.

Simpson said the EEOC also has the option of forwarding McField’s case to the Justice Department.

“I just don’t know how many people have to review this before he finds someone that agrees with him,” Simpson said. “We’ve already advised the EEOC that we are declining their invitation to reconciliation and that they may pursue whatever action they think is appropriate.”

Simpson said the EEOC also has the option of forwarding McField’s case to the Justice Department.

McField said he plans to continue fighting his termination.

“I’m not going to sit back and take a back seat and then this happens to someone else, black, white or whatever. I’m going to keep fighting. I’m not giving up,” he said.

Another black trooper, Jerry Merrill, 39, of Laurel, also is appealing his firing, alleging racial discrimination.