Legion post settles discrimination charges

American Legion Post 76 in Jamaica Plain has agreed to pay $15,000 and to create antidiscrimination policies to resolve allegations of racial bias against African-American vendors and guests at a sweet 16 birthday party last year, according to Attorney General Maura Healey.

The veterans organization must require staff to attend training on state and federal public accommodation laws, which make it illegal for businesses or organizations to discriminate against patrons based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and other factors.

At its own suggestion, the post agreed to host an annual event for cadets reserve at the English High School, and to sponsor students to attend the American Legion Boys and Girls State leadership programs, said Edward J.Richardson, a lawyer for the post.


“Both of those parts . . . are consistent with the citizenship mission of the American Legion and Post 76,” Richardson said in an e-mail to the Globe.

The settlement, which was filed on Monday in Suffolk Superior Court, resolves allegations of discrimination that arose in January 2015, when an African-American woman reserved space at Post 76 for her daughter’s birthday party in June 2015.

When event planners arrived at the American Legion, a bartender allegedly refused to host the party, claiming that the guests might be “gang members” or “get drunk and shoot the place,” prosecutors said. The staff eventually agreed to host the event but refused to close off the event space from the rest of the building.

When an African-American photographer arrived, the bartender allegedly stopped him and searched his bags, suggesting he might be carrying a gun, prosecutors said.

The staff reportedly made derogatory comments about African-Americans throughout the night. The staff also allegedly ended the party early, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors alleged the post violated the state’s Public Accommodations Law and the Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive conduct in commerce.


“No one in Massachusetts should be discriminated against based on their race and we need to continue to find ways to reject and end both explicit and implicit bias in all its forms,” Healey said in a statement.

Healey added that she was “pleased that the Post, in addition to taking steps to implement better policies and train its staff, will also give back to the community by supporting local youth at English High.”

Richardson said the incident was “a singular event” and the “vast majority of rentals at Post 76 were to members of minority groups.”

Post 76 will pay $10,000 to the woman who booked the party, and $5,000 to the state, according to a copy of the agreement.

Michael Curry, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP, lauded the woman who reported the incident.

“People get so used to being mistreated in this city that it’s become the norm,” Curry said. “Thank God for this woman who decided to file a complaint and go to the AG’s office, because most people don’t do that.”

Olivia Quintana can be reached at olivia.quintana@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @oliviasquintana. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.