St. Louis County Police Sgt. Keith Wildhaber applied to be promoted as a lieutenant but had been passed over.
His suspicion as to why was confirmed when he received unsolicited advice to “tone down” his “gayness” from a restaurant owner who knew about Wildhaber’s request for promotion.
A police commissioner allegedly told Sergeant Keith Wildhaber, “You should tone down your gayness.” https://t.co/t0fWMx8HYx
— Josh Mankiewicz (@JoshMankiewicz) October 29, 2019
According to a 2017 lawsuit, Wildhaber was performing a security sweep in a restaurant in 2014 when its owner, John Saracino—who happened to be on the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners at the time—told him:
“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.”
A “white shirt” is a slang term for supervising officers, such as sergeants and lieutenants.
Five million for each word of “tone down your gayness.”
— Ann ???????? (@planoslp) October 29, 2019
CNN said Saracino denied allegations of the conversation.
Wildhaber, who joined the department in 1994 and previously served four years in the armed forces, did not get promoted and had been passed up numerous times because he believes he didn’t “conform to the department’s standards of gender norms.”
Sgt. Keith Wildhaber says he was passed over 23 times for a promotion to lieutenant because he is gay.https://t.co/8J03J1KUmS
— KUTV 2News (@KUTV2News) October 28, 2019
Regardless of his personal life choice was he had always received good evaluations. If he were not meeting the requirements then that's another matter. Most significantly he was denied a promotion 23 times.
— billys8 (@billy7817) October 29, 2019
He filed a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in 2016.
A month after filing the complaint, Wildhaber alleged he was retaliated against when he was reassigned from working afternoon shifts at the Affton precinct near his home to a location 27 miles further away in Jennings to work overnight shifts.
So he filed a second discrimination charge for the retaliation.
‘County taxpayers are on the hook for $19 million because Chief Jon Belmar wouldn’t give such a white shirt to Sgt. Keith Wildhaber. Now it’s time for him to pay the price. @DrSamPage must take away Belmar’s white shirt.’ https://t.co/GB4XvQlWtZ
— Tony Messenger (@tonymess) October 27, 2019
On Friday, after three hours of deliberation, a jury awarded Wildhaber with $1.9 million in actual damages and $10 million in punitive damages for discrimination.
The jury also added $990,000 in actual damages and $7 million in punitive damages for the retaliation.
Bravo! I suggest the Police Commissioner tone down his homophobia!
— Leigh Anna (@moondancer34) October 29, 2019
Great news. I’m sick of people discriminating.
— Marlene Goodrich (@MarleneGoodrich) October 29, 2019
Right outcome, but yet another illustration of the absurd amounts of punitive damages often awarded by juries.
— John J Waller (@JohnJWaller3) October 29, 2019
A jury foreman identified as “juror No. 4,” told reporters why the jury arrived at their decision after the weeklong trial.
“We wanted to send a message. If you discriminate, you are going to pay a big price. … You can’t defend the indefensible.”
St. Louis County Police Sgt. Keith Wildhaber awarded nearly $20 million for anti-gay discrimination
Sgt. Keith Wildhaber had more than 15 years of experience on the force when he applied for a promotion, and by all accounts, he was a strong candidate. https://t.co/OkO7xKt2nu
— JerseyCraig ????️???? (@Jersey_Craig) October 29, 2019
Wildhaber’s attorneys were “ecstatic” over the decision and issued a statement, saying:
“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.”
If these cops are this blantantly discriminatory against a fellow (white male) cop, IMAGINE HOW THEY TREAT EVERYDAY LGBT PPL who won’t get $20,000,000 in recompense
— Jenny Curt (@Jenny_Curt) October 29, 2019
KSDK reported that St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said changes are coming to the St. Louis County Police Department in light of the settlement.
“The current police board and current police chief have served the county faithfully for years. The time for leadership changes has come and change must start at the top.”
— County Executive Sam Page (@DrSamPage) October 27, 2019
If you feel you are being discriminated against in the workplace based on race, color, age, disability, or sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), you can file a Charge of Discrimination through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.
The EEOC requires that you must file a charge within 45 days of an occurrence or of when you became aware of the occurrence and before filing a lawsuit for unlawful discrimination.
EEOC cannot accept discrimination charges over the phone, but you can get the process started by calling 1-800-669-4000 to discuss your situation.