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Police Sergeant Told To ‘Tone Down The Gayness’ Wins $20M In Damages

Police Sergeant Told To ‘Tone Down The Gayness’ Wins $20M In Damages

Keith Wildhaber, who was allegedly passed over for promotion 23 times, wins discrimination lawsuit against St Louis county police

A gay Missouri police sergeant has been awarded nearly $20m in damages after he was told if he wanted to be promoted he should “tone down the gayness”.

“I was sickened by it,” Wildhaber told the court last week, according to the St Louis Post-Dispatch.

“I think I said: ‘I can’t believe we are having this conversation in 2014.’ It was devastating to hear.”

Wildhaber said he was told to “tone down the gayness” by John Saracino, a former St Louis county police board of commissioners member. Saracino has denied it.

Donna Woodland, a witness in the trial, supported Wildhaber’s complaint, the Post-Dispatch reported. Woodland testified that she had heard the St Louis county police captain Guy Means say Wildhaber was “way too out there with his gayness and he needed to tone it down if he wanted a white shirt [be promoted]”.

She also recalled Means saying: “You know about him, right? He’s fruity.”

The jury awarded Wildhaber $1.9m in actual damages and $10m in punitive damages on the discrimination allegation, according to the Post-Dispatch. It also found Wildhaber had been the victim of retaliation after filing his lawsuit, adding $999,000 in actual damages and $7m in punitive damages for that charge.

“We wanted to send a message,” the jury foreman, who was not named, told reporters. “If you discriminate you are going to pay a big price … You can’t defend the indefensible.”

The St Louis county executive, Sam Page, said in a statement he would appoint new members to the police board.

 

 

“Our police department must be a place where every community member and every officer is respected and treated with dignity. Employment decisions in the department must be made on merit and who is best for the job,” Page said.

“The time for leadership changes has come and change must start at the top.”

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