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Jury awards former ESOP president $300K in lawsuit against St. Louis

Heather Taylor sued the city in 2017, claiming she faced racial discrimination and retaliation in her former role as a St. Louis police sergeant.
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis jury has awarded $300,000 to former Ethical Society of Police President Heather Taylor in a discrimination lawsuit against the city.

Taylor sued the city of St. Louis for damages in 2017, prior to becoming Mayor Tishaura Jones’ deputy director of public safety. 

The lawsuit asserted that Taylor, who is African American, faced race-based discrimination while she was a sergeant with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, including discipline, ostracization and targeted harassment from several named members of the department.

In one instance, attorneys said Taylor faced "unprecedented discipline" after speaking to a reporter in her capacity as ESOP president regarding the city's ShotSpotter crime prevention technology. 

Taylor was subject to an internal affairs complaint and was later reprimanded by former police chief Sam Dotson as a result. Other white employees had given interviews to the media on dozens of occasions without facing discipline, the lawsuit asserted.

Attorneys also wrote that she faced retaliation after speaking out about racial discrimination in the department. 

In July of 2016, ESOP released a critical evaluation of the St. Louis police department's leadership and culture. Taylor called on Dotson to resign as chief, citing the report, which accused Dotson of bullying officers and promoting an environment of discrimination. The lawsuit states that Dotson's communications with Taylor became "increasingly hostile and aggressive" following the report and that she was subject to a retaliatory investigation and discipline.

Taylor suffered "emotional distress, mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, and harm to her reputation," as a result, the lawsuit stated, calling the alleged retaliation "outrageous because of Defendant’s evil motive or reckless disregard of (Taylor's) protected rights."

The jury on Friday found in favor of Taylor's claims that she faced a hostile work environment and retaliation, awarding her $30,000 and $270,000, respectively.

The mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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