St. Louis County officer who said he was told to 'tone down his gayness' awarded $19M

NBC News 1 month ago

A St. Louis County police sergeant who claimed he was told to "tone down his gayness" if he wanted to be promoted has reportedly been awarded nearly $19 million.

Sgt. Keith Wildhaber filed a discrimination suit against the police department in 2017, claiming that he was passed over for promotions because he is gay.

A jury on Friday awarded $1.9 million in actual damages and $10 million in punitive damages for discrimination, and $990,000 in actual damages and $7 million in punitive damages for retaliation after a weeklong trial, NBC affiliate KSDK of St. Louis reported.

Wildhaber joined the department in 1994. He previously served four years in the armed forces.

"We wanted to send a message," the jury foreman, who was not identified, told reporters, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. "If you discriminate, you are going to pay a big price. ... You can't defend the indefensible."

County Counselor Beth Orwick told the newspaper Friday that the county was exploring its legal options.

"We are ecstatic for our client," lawyers for Wildhaber said after the jury's decision, which they called a "historic verdict," according to KSDK.

"His bravery and courage in standing up for what is right should be an inspiration for employees everywhere. Justice was served in this trial, and no client could be more deserving than Keith. The jury acted as the conscience of the community and spoke loud and clear in its verdict," his attorneys said in the statement.

Leadership changes would be coming to the county police department as a result of the verdict, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Sunday, according to the station. He said in a statement on Twitter that those changes will include the appointment of new members to the police board, which oversees the police chief.

Wildhaber's suit said that in 2014, then-St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners member John Saracino allegedly told Sgt. Wildhaber: "The command staff has a problem with your sexuality. If you ever want to see a white shirt [i.e. get a promotion], you should tone down your gayness."

Wildhaber reportedly filed a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in 2016, and according to the suit, a month later he was moved from afternoons in a precinct to overnight shifts in Jennings, which is in the northeast section of the county.


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Newsweek › 1 month ago
A jury awarded a Missouri police officer $19 million after he said he was told to "tone down his gayness" if he ever expected a promotion.
New York Post › 1 month ago
A veteran St. Louis cop who was told to tone down his “gayness” to get a promotion has been awarded almost $20 million, according to a report. Sgt. Keith Wildhaber said he was passed over 23 times for a promotion at St. Louis County Police...
The Sun › 1 month ago
A VETERAN cop told to tone down his “gayness” to win a promotion has been awarded almost £16m compensation, say US reports. Sergeant Keith Wildhaber said he was overlooked 23 times at the St. Louis County Police Department and then hit with a...
Evening Standard › 1 month ago
A police officer who was allegedly told to "tone down his gayness" if he wanted to be promoted has been awarded almost $20million in damages.
USA Today › 1 month ago
Sgt. Keith Wildhaber sued St. Louis County in Missouri after he was told he would never be promoted because of his sexuality. He won $19 million.
The New York Times › 1 month ago
A St. Louis County police sergeant has testified that he was told to "tone down his gayness" to secure a promotion to lieutenant.
CNN › 1 month ago
A jury has awarded nearly $20 million to Sgt. Keith Wildhaber after he alleged that the St. Louis County Police Department discriminated against him over his sexual orientation.
CBS Local › 1 month ago
"The command staff has a problem with your sexuality," a member of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners allegedly told the officer.
CBS News › 1 month ago
When asking about a possible promotion, the officer says he was told the command staff had a problem with his sexuality
ABC News › 1 month ago
St. Louis County Sgt. Keith Wildhaber filed the lawsuit in 2017.
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