Mo. pays out $2M in connection with CO discrimination case

A jury agreed Richard Dixson was subjected to racial discrimination and a hostile work environment

By Kurt Erickson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri paid out more than $2 million in January in connection with the latest employee discrimination case against the state’s prison system.

Richard Dixson, a white employee of the minimum security Kansas City Re-Entry Center, won the award after a jury agreed in 2017 he was subjected to racial discrimination and a hostile work environment.

His lawsuit said managers retaliated after Dixson complained.

Records made public Monday by the attorney general’s office show Dixson received a check for $651,000 in January, while his attorney received $951,585.

The remaining portion of the money went to other court costs and to a state fund that sets aside money for victims.

Dixson’s award is the latest high-dollar check made out in connection with workplace problems within state government.

Republican state lawmakers have considered legislation that would exempt the state from facing financial punishment for wrongdoing in some civil lawsuits.

The proposal would have given the state what’s called “sovereign immunity,” the legal concept that protects government agencies from lawsuits in many cases.

Although the idea could resurface before lawmakers adjourn in May, the provision was removed from a bill approved by the Senate last week after hours of closed-door negotiations over other changes to the state’s law regarding punitive damages in lawsuits.

Dixson’s award also comes as the union representing rank-and-file workers at the Missouri Department of Corrections is on the brink of insolvency, raising questions about how employee grievances will be handled in the future.

Gary Gross, executive director of the Missouri Correctional Officers Association, told the Post-Dispatch last week that a decision by Gov. Mike Parson’s administration to stop withholding union dues from 5,500 workers’ paychecks has left the union with not enough funds to operate through the end of March.

Lawsuits against the state cost taxpayers at least $24.2 million in 2019, according to the attorney general.

The figure is down from the prior two years, but remains a vexing issue for lawmakers who are drafting the state budget and cannot count on that money for schools and social services.

In 2018, the total paid out of the state’s Legal Expense Fund was $28.8 million, compared with $25 million in 2017.


©2020 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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