A St. Louis County police officer is suing his department for discrimination after he says he was told to “tone down” his gayness in order to receive a promotion.
In the lawsuit filed last month, first reported by the St Louis Post-Dispatch, Sgt. Keith Wildhaber claims despite being regarded as “superior” and “exceeding standards” in performance reviews, he’s been passed over for multiple promotions to lieutenant because of his sexuality.
Court documents describe one incident from 2014 where Wildhaber says a former member of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners John Saracino told him: “The command staff has a problem with your sexuality. If you ever want to see a white shirt (i.e. get a promotion), you should tone down your gayness.”
Saracino told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he “never had a conversation like that” and “would never say anything like that.”
The openly gay sergeant joined the police department in 1994, and in April last year he made complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights over the alleged discrimination. But a month and a half later, he says, he was reassigned from his regular precinct near his home to working a late-night shift 30 miles away.
In a statement to the New York Post, a department spokesperson couldn’t comment on the “active lawsuit” but said: “What we can say is that our main focus in recruiting and developing employees is looking for excellent individuals, no matter what their status, race, religion, sexual preference, political belief, or aspiration is.”
Wildhaber was also one of the LGBTI-identifying officers asked by the St. Louis County Police Association to serve on a committee it was forming to present ideas on how to improve the organisation to “ensure all of our members are treated equally and fairly in the workplace,” the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
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