ST. LOUIS — An officer with the St. Louis County policy was awarded $19 million for anti-LGBTQ discrimination by a jury on Friday.
KDSK, a St. Louis NBC affiliate, reported that Sgt. Keith Wildhaber filed a discrimination lawsuit against the St. Louis County Police Department saying the department had repeatedly passed him over because he is gay. He was reportedly told to “tone down his gayness” if he wanted a promotion.
The TV station Wildhaber joined the force in 1994 after military service and had “extremely positive feedback” in his record over his career. But had still been passed over for promotions.
The suit referenced an incident in 2014, when John Saracino, then a member of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners, 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.”
Sgt. Wildhaber filed a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in April of 2016. According to the suit, about a month later, Sgt. Wildhaber was reassigned from working afternoons at the Affton precinct near his home to working overnights in Jennings, about 27 miles away.
Sgt. Wildhaber then filed a second charge of discrimination, also alleging he was retaliated against for filing the original complaint.
KDSK reported that the county was still exploring their options and that County Executive Sam Page had said there would be leadership changes in the police department after the settlement.