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February 17, 2017

Cop Sues St. Louis County After Allegedly Being Told 'Tone Down Gayness'

A longtime Missouri police officer has filed a discrimination lawsuit against his county, claiming that he was asked to “tone done his gayness” if he wanted a job promotion. 

Sgt. Keith Wildhaber, who has worked for St. Louis County since 1994, said he was repeatedly denied promotions by the county in spite of excellent performance reviews from superiors and a solid employment history, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

In his lawsuit, Wildhaber stated that because he “does not fit into the stereotypical norms of what a ‘male’ should be,” and has allegedly been “damaged in the form of lost wages and benefits of employment, future wages, emotional distress, humiliation and diminished employment status.”

The suit, which can be read in full here, also alleges that Wildhaber ranked third out of 26 candidates after applying and testing for a lieutenant position, but did not earn the promotion because of his sexuality. Meanwhile, he was allegedly reassigned from afternoon shifts to midnight shifts to a precinct 30 miles from his home after filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Missouri Commission on Human Rights in 2016 about his lack of advancement.

The suit also cites an alleged 2014 conversation that Wildhaber had with John Saracino, a former member of the department’s civilian police board. “The command staff has a problem with your sexuality,” Saracino said, according to Wildhaber. “If you ever want to see a white shirt [get a promotion], you should tone down your gayness.” 

In an interview with The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Saracino denied the claims, stating he “would never say anything like that. That’s not me.”

Russell Riggan, who is Wildhaber’s attorney, declined comment on the case to The New York Post, stating, “Our system of justice provides the right to a fair trial, and we do not wish to compromise our client’s rights by commenting to the media.”

The state of Missouri currently does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Sgt. Shawn McGuire, who is a spokesman for St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, told the Associated Press in a statement, “Our main focus in recruiting is attempting to recruit outstanding candidates who want to become part of our organization, no matter what their status, race, religion, sexual preference, political belief, or aspiration is.” 

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Source: Queer Voices

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