A former St Louis police officer has been awarded millions of dollars by a court after she succeeded in her claim that she had been harassed and discriminated by fellow officers on the police force.
Tanisha Ross-Paige, a former canine officer in the St Louis police force, made her claims for sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and victimization against the St Louis Board of Police Commissioners.
Ms Ross-Paige alleged that she had suffered the following conduct during the course of her employment:
- That her supervisor, Sergeant Steven Gori, made a mock “Wanted” poster that stated “Subject wanted for having the baddest body in the St. Louis area” and “extreme caution when approaching this subject. Approach this subject from behind for your own safety”
- That Sergeant Gori had asked her to sit on his lap
- That Sergeant Gori had asked her to take off her bullet-proof vest to “see what [she is] working with”
- That Sergeant Gori invited her to skinny-dip in his hot tub
- That Sergeant Gori and another officer had given Ms Ross-Paige bad shifts and denied her time off for training after she filed a complaint, and that Gori threatened to take her police dog away from her if she did not agree to date him
The St Louis court found in favour of Ms Ross-Paige in her claims and awarded her $300,000 in compensatory damages and a further $7.2 million in punitive damages. It has been indicated that the St Louis Board of Police Commissioners may appeal the amount of the award but that this may set a precedent for a higher legal maximum that can be awarded in compensation in future cases.
John Eccher, one of the lawyers that represented Ms Ross-Paige in her claim, stated on the value of the award: “It’s absolutely huge for this type of case” and further stated in court that he wanted jurors to send a message with a verdict which was high enough that “everyone will take notice that retaliation and discrimination in the workplace ends today”. Another of Ms Ross-Paige’s solicitors estimated that Ms Ross-Paige would eventually ‘take home’ about $3 million, less the legal fees that she had incurred.
Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “This case demonstrates that employees face discrimination and harassment the world over. However, the law in the United States differs from UK employment law in that ‘punitive’ damages can be awarded for discrimination and harassment, and these figures far outstrip what the Employment Tribunal can and will award to those who succeed in their claims for discrimination, harassment and/or victimization.”