KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A jury has awarded almost $1.5 million to a white prison employee in Kansas City who filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Richard Dixson sued the agency last year saying he was subjected to racial discrimination and a hostile work environment at the Kansas City Re-Entry Center, a minimum-security prison. Dixson said he was removed from a position in the facility and replaced with employees he contends are unqualified.
He remains employed at the center in a different position, the Kansas City Star reported.
The lawsuit said managers retaliated after Dixson complained. Dixson alleged he was denied an investigation into his complaint, and was denied the use of flex-time to spend time with his family and for medical appointments after a car accident. But other employees were permitted to use flex-time, the lawsuit said.
A Jackson County jury on Monday ruled in Dixson’s favor on the allegation of retaliation, but not on the discrimination and hostile work environment allegations. The jury awarded Dixson $280,000 in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages.
The Corrections Department has not said if it plans to appeal the ruling.
Dixson’s case is among a series of harassment and discrimination lawsuits the department has recently faced. Two lawsuits last year resulted in juries ordering the state to pay more than $3 million in damages to victims.
Last month, another employee at the Re-Entry Center sued the department saying she was sexually harassed by male colleagues and that the agency ignored her complaints. That lawsuit is ongoing.
Such cases will play out differently under new legislation signed earlier this year by Gov. Eric Greitens. The law applies to cases filed after August of this year. Under the law, damages are capped at $500,000 for employers with more than 500 employees.
Officials at the Corrections Department and the office of the Missouri attorney general didn’t immediately return calls from the newspaper seeking comment.