Big Win for Cop Told to 'Tone Down Your Gayness'

St. Louis County Sgt. Keith Wildhaber awarded $19M
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2019 2:02 PM CDT
St. Louis County police Sgt. Keith Wildhaber approaches the St. Louis County courthouse on Thursday.   (Cristina M. Fletes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)

(Newser) – A jury has awarded $19 million to a Missouri police officer who says his supervisors denied him promotions because he was too outwardly gay. "If you ever want to see a white shirt, you should tone down your gayness," a member of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners told Sgt. Keith Wildhaber in 2014, according to a lawsuit seen by USA Today. During a trial last week, jurors also heard from a woman who said Police Capt. Guy Means referred to Wildhaber as "fruity" and "way too out there with his gayness" at a 2015 event. "The county should be ashamed," said Wildhaber's attorney, Russ Riggan, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Wildhaber filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016. About a month later, he was transferred to a precinct almost 30 miles from his home and assigned to the midnight shift, according to his lawsuit, per KSDK. "You can't defend the indefensible," the jury foreman said Friday in awarding $1.9 million in actual damages and $10 million in punitive damages for discrimination, plus $999,000 in actual damages and $7 million in punitive damages for unlawful retaliation. Meanwhile, Councilwoman Lisa Clancy demanded Police Chief Jon Belmar resign, suggesting he may have committed perjury during the trial when explaining why Wildhaber wasn't promoted. (Read more discrimination stories.)

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