Gay cop Sgt Keith Wildhaber of St Louis County Police, Missouri, filed a discrimination lawsuit against his employers after he was repeatedly denied a promotion and told that he would need to “tone down [his] gayness” to receive the role of lieutenant which he had applied for several times.
Upon enquiring about the position, Sgt Wildhaber was told by the St Louis County Board of Police Commissioners, that “the command staff [had] a problem with [his] sexuality.” The St Louis Dispatch reported that one board member remarked to Sgt Wildhaber that; “If you ever want to see a white shirt, you should tone down your gayness.”
Furthermore, it was also reported that Sgt Wildhaber’s captain would call him “fruity” and is quoted as telling a friend that Wildhaber was “way too out there with his gayness and he needed to tone it down” if he ever wanted to get the promotion to lieutenant.
Wildhaber, who had been denied the promotion 23 times, was both frustrated at the clear prejudice against him and sicked by the derogatory comments made by his colleagues. Sgt Wildhaber, at the end of his rope, complained about the unfairness of the situation and was promptly reassigned to a midnight shift 27 miles from his home, as though to punish him for speaking out.
With this, Wildhaber decided to file a discrimination lawsuit against the department due to the way he was treated. Wildhaber won the case, being awarded $20 million in damages, with his attorney Sam Moore saying the officer was “ecstatic” about the outcome of the trial. Moore also praised his client saying; “His bravery and courage in standing up for what is right should be an inspiration for employees everywhere.”
The head juror in the case explained that the gay cop wanted to “send a message” to the department that; “if you discriminate, you are going to pay a big price.” This message clearly resonated throughout the community, with Missouri county officials calling for the heads of the police department to step down from their positions following the case.
County Executive Sam Page explained the move stating; “Our police department must be a place where every community member and every officer is respected and treated with dignity. Employment decisions in the department must be made on merit and who is best for the job.”
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