A jury awarded a $7.5 million judgment to a former St. Louis police officer who claimed her supervising sergeant sexually harassed her and that she suffered retaliation for complaining.
Tanisha Ross-Paige won $300,000 in compensatory damages and $7.2 million in punitive damages from the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners for retaliation, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The jury found in favor of the police board on a discrimination claim.
“It’s absolutely huge for this type of case,” said John Eccher, one of the lawyers who represented Ross-Paige. He said he had asked jurors to send a message with a verdict that was high enough that “everyone will take notice that retaliation and discrimination in the workplace ends today.”
Ryan Paulus, another of Ross-Paige’s lawyers, estimated that the amount eventually would be reduced under the law to roughly $3 million, including legal expenses.
The lawyers added that the legal maximum could grow if the police board appeals.
A police spokeswoman declined comment, saying that is policy for ongoing litigation.
Ross-Paige’s original lawsuit claimed that her then-supervisor, Sgt. Steven Gori, created and distributed a mock “wanted” poster with her picture and comments about her body. The flier read, “Subject wanted for having the baddest body in the St. Louis area,” and “Use extreme caution when approaching this subject. Approach this subject from behind for your own safety.”
The lawsuit also claimed Gori asked the married Ross-Paige to sit on his lap, take off her bullet-resistant vest so that he could “see what (she is) working with,” and invited her to skinny-dip in his hot tub.
According to the lawsuit, Gori and then-Lt. Michael Deeba began giving Ross-Paige unfavorable shifts, evaluating her differently in performance reviews and denying her time off for training that was given to others after she filed a complaint with the department in June 2011.
Ross-Paige joined the force in 2005 and the canine unit in 2008. She filed her lawsuit on Dec. 22, 2011. Then on Jan. 4, 2012, she was injured by another canine officer’s dog during a training exercise, lawyers said, permanently disabling her.
Her lawyers said she moved to Baltimore fearing further retaliation and has separated from her husband.