Keith Wildhaber, an out 22-year veteran of the St. Louis County police is suing the department for discrimination saying he was told to “tone down his gayness” if he ever wanted a promotion, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
The sergeant ranked third among 26 people who took a promotions test in February 2014, and also was third in a second round of tests in February 2015, according to the lawsuit.
But Wildhaber has watched as virtually all of his peers were promoted, even though his written performance reviews show that he “exceeds standards” or is “superior” in all rated categories, the suit says.
“Defendant believes plaintiff’s behavior, mannerisms, and/or appearance do not fit the stereotypical norms of what a ‘male’ should be,” according to the lawsuit.
Police Chief Jon Belmar would not comment on the suit or agree to an interview about his department’s interaction with gay officers, said a department spokesman, Sgt. Shawn McGuire.
Wildhaber alleges that he was told to tone it down by John Saracino, a member of the department’s civilian police board:
“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 allegedly told Wildhaber.
Reached Wednesday, Saracino said: “I never had a conversation like that. I would never say anything like that. That’s not me.”
The lawsuit says that Wildhaber was reassigned from afternoon shifts to midnight shifts after he filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Missouri Commission on Human Rights in 2016 about his lack of advancement in the department.
A report from the DOJ following the Ferguson protests in 2014 suggested that the St. Louis County Police Department “create a diversity council to advise commanders on recruitment and other issues regarding an array of people — including ethnic, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and linguistic minorities” according to the paper, but it never happened.
Read the lawsuit here.