The ACLU of Rhode Island has settled a discrimination complaint against the Town of North Smithfield on behalf of Thomas Bourgeois, who was denied appointment as a school coach last year solely because of his gender.

The settlement, agreed to by the town school committee at a meeting last night, resolved an administrative complaint filed by the ACLU in December with the R.I. Commission on Human Rights. The complaint, filed by volunteer attorney Lynette Labinger, alleged that last February, Mr. Bourgeois was passed over for selection to serve as the North Smithfield Junior High girls’ softball coach solely so that a woman could be hired for the position instead.

After Bourgeois applied for the position, he was told he was the only candidate. In addition, his name appeared as the recommended candidate on the advance agenda for the School Committee meeting. On the night of the meeting, however, his name was struck out, and that of a woman written in his place. When the school superintendent, who is no longer employed by the district, was asked to explain his actions at a school committee meeting the next month, he stated that he believed that a woman should be appointed to the position, and that he had searched out a woman candidate, instead of recommending Bourgeois, for that reason. 

At the time Bourgeois was denied the appointment on the stated basis of his sex, North Smithfield employed other men as coaches and assistant coaches for girls’ sports. Bourgeois had ten years’ experience coaching softball in the town’s Little League program when he applied for the school position.

Last night, the school committee unanimously voted to appoint Bourgeois to the coach’s position. In settlement of the case, the ACLU agreed to waive its entitlement to attorneys’ fees. RI ACLU executive director Steven Brown said today: “I am pleased that this matter has been resolved, and that Mr. Bourgeois will be able to start coaching in a job for which he is eminently qualified.”

The settlement follows on the heels of the ACLU’s closure of its successful lawsuit last year against the Town when it attempted to hire as the municipal fire department the all-male, all-white private fire rescue service serving North Smithfield.