st. louis, police, discrimination, wildhaber
A jury awarded St. Louis County Sgt. nearly $20 million in a discrimination suit. He claimed officials discriminated against him because he was gay. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Gay Police Officer Sgt. Wildhaber Wins $20 Million in Discrimination Suit Against St. Louis County

St. Louis County, Mo., police officer Sgt. Keith Wildhaber on Friday won a discrimination lawsuit against his department for nearly $20 million after claiming the department discriminated against him based on his sexuality and retaliated against him when he filed a complaint.

In one instance in 2014, Wildhaber recounted in the suit, county official John Saracino told him to “tone down” his gayness if he wanted to be promoted to lieutenant and told him the command staff had a problem with his sexuality. The suit said Wildhaber was passed over for 23 promotions over 5 1/2 years because he is gay. Wildhaber had been at the department since 1994.

Related Article: Championship College Swimmer Says He Was Kicked Off Stanford Team for Being Gay

The jury delivered its verdict Friday. Wildhaber received $1.9 million in actual damages and $10 million in punitive damages on the discrimination claim. He also received $999,000 in actual damages and $7 million in punitive damages for the retaliation claim.

Wildhaber had filed a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in 2016. As a result, he was transferred to another precinct against his wishes. He ultimately filed a total of five discrimination and retaliation complaints.

Police Chief John Belmar said in his testimony that the lawsuit was one of the reasons Wildhaber was not promoted. However, he also said he had not punished Wildhaber or denied him a promotion for being gay.

Another testimony by Donna Woodland — a widow of a former county police officer and girlfriend of a current officer — said that Capt. Guy Means had called Wildhaber “fruity” and said he would never be promoted because he was “way too out there with his gayness” at a 2015 event.

Means testified that he had never met Wildhaber and didn’t recall attending the event, but Woodland provided photographs of herself with Means in the event’s photo booth.

After the verdict, the St. Louis County Police Union issued a statement.

“The St. Louis County Police Association has a long history of fighting for equality for all of our members,” it said. “While we are extremely embarrassed of the alleged actions of some of our Department’s senior commanders, we look forward to the healing process that can begin to take place now that this has been heard in open court.”

County Executive Sam Page also said in a statement that there will be changes made to the police leadership board, starting with new appointments.

Roland Corvington resigned as the chairman of the police board Monday. Another member said Page told her she was being replaced, according to NPR. Page has not made any statements regarding how many — or which — people he wants to replace and has not indicated whether he wants the board to fire Belmar, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Wildhaber was not the only person to claim the department had a homophobic culture. Mary Beth Ruby, an executive assistant to Deputy Chief Kenneth Gregory, said she put down her fiancée’s name as an emergency contact on a form, which revealed she was gay. She said she overheard him telling another commander that homosexuality was an “abomination.” She said after she filled out the form,  she was then given a heavier workload, was stripped of her supervisory role and was harassed, humiliated and embarrassed “almost daily.”

The jury took three hours to deliberate on Wildhaber’s case. After the trial ended, the jury foreman, identified as juror No. 4, told reporters the jurors wanted their decision to send a message against discrimination.

“We wanted to send a message,” he said. “If you discriminate you are going to pay a big price … you can’t defend the indefensible.”

Related Article: No Arrests Made After Two Gay Men Beaten in NYC Restaurant Pollos Mario

Latest News

Diverse hads unite

More Work Needed For Corporate Diversity Programs; Fourteen Disability Groups Unite to Promote Voting; and More

Corporate diversity efforts still have a long way to go, new report finds. In a report conducted by the research firm Clutch, nearly half of employees surveyed said their company isn’t committed to creating a more diverse workplace and hasn’t successfully improved diversity within the last year. Researchers with Clutch…

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco Declares War on Racism; People 55 and Older Face Historic Levels of Unemployment; and More.

San Francisco begins a citywide war on racism and discrimination. Known as the birthplace of the “Summer of Love” and the counterculture movement of the 1960s, San Francisco has long stood as a bastion of individuality and inclusion. And now the city is continuing that fight with the launch of…

portrait of Abraham Lincoln

Was Abraham Lincoln a Racist?

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s mention of Abraham Lincoln’s name during the third presidential debate on Thursday, Oct. 22, was one of the most memorable exchanges in the final presidential debate of 2020. It also caused Lincoln to become a trending topic over much of social media in the hours…

BASF receives “CIIF New Materials Award”

Originally published on BASF.com Novel modification of BASF’s PolyTHF for various applications First successful application for soft spandex fibers with Banglian BASF has received the 2020 “CIIF New Materials Award” focusing on innovation and granted by the China International Industry Fair (CIIF) in September, 2020 at the National Exhibition and…

Humana

Humana, Quantified Ventures, and Volunteers of America Partner to Establish First of Its Kind Health Outcomes Fund

Originally published on Humana.com  The new fund will help Volunteers of America sustainably scale Family Focused Recovery program operations to provide comprehensive services to mothers with substance use disorder and their children Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) today re-confirms its commitment to provide innovative models of care for families through a…

AOC celebrates a victory in Among Us during her Twitch stream

AOC Livestreamed ‘Among Us’ on Twitch to Encourage Everyone (but Particularly Young People) to Vote

New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is stepping up Democratic efforts to make sure young voters are prepared when heading to the polls on Election Day, especially in light of COVID-19. On Oct. 21, 2020, AOC livestreamed on Twitch to engage with the younger demographic that frequents the video game-centric…

Black Lives Matter face mask for preventing spread of COVID-19

BLM T-shirts and Trump Masks Cause Uproar at Early Polling Locations; New Credit Cards Allow Trans Individuals to Use Preferred Name; and More

BLM T-shirts and Trump masks cause uproar at early polling locations. Voters’ choice of clothing when heading to the polls in Florida and Tennessee has begun making headlines across the country. The Washington Post reported that Miami police officer Daniel Ubeda has come under fire for wearing a Trump-endorsing face…

Enjoy Chic Comfort at the Newly Opened Hilton Mall of Istanbul

Originally published on Hilton.com Hilton Mall of Istanbul, located within Turkey’s largest shopping and entertainment center, offers 175 guest rooms including 14 suites, extensive conference facilities and easy access from the new Istanbul Airport Today Hilton Mall of Istanbul opens its doors to guests. The world-class 175-room hotel, located within the same…