- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2019

A Missouri cop was awarded $19 million in a discrimination lawsuit last Friday after he was told to turn down his “gayness.”

A jury granted St. Louis County Police Department Sergeant Keith Wildhaber sued and won a discrimination lawsuit, claiming his sexuality was leading him to be passed up for promotions.

A 25-year veteran of the force and former member of the military, Mr. Wildhaber claims he was passed up for a promotion 23 times despite being given “extremely positive feedback” about his work as an officer.

According to local station KSDK, the suit alleges an incident between Mr. Wildhaber and John Saracino, a then-member of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners.

“The command staff has a problem with your sexuality,” Saracino allegedly told Wildhaber. “If you ever want to see a white shirt [i.e., be promoted], you should tone down your gayness.”

Additionally, the suit claimed that after Mr. Wildhaber filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, his precinct responded by transferring him from an afternoon shift near his home to a overnight shift nearly 30 miles away.

Chief of Police Jon Belmar testified to the jury that Mr. Wildhaber wasn’t passed up for promotions due to his sexuality, rather because he “tipped off the target of an FBI investigation,” wrote the Post-Dispatch, a claim in which Mr. Wildhaber denies. 

They also said Mr. Wildhaber’s transfer was due to his relationship with his original precinct, creating a toxic work environment and not because of his complaints.

The jury didn’t appear to buy either of these claims and handed Mr. Wildhaber $1.9 million in actual damages, $10 million in damages. Another $999,000 in actual damages and $7 million in punitive damages were later added.

“We wanted to send a message,” the jury foreman only identified as “juror No. 4” said. “If you discriminate you are going to pay a big price. … You can’t defend the indefensible.”

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