Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jury Awards $7.5 Million to Ex-St. Louis Officer Who Claimed Harassment, Retaliation

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jury Awards $7.5 Million to Ex-St. Louis Officer Who Claimed Harassment, Retaliation

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * A former St. Louis police officer who claimed her supervising sergeant sexually harassed her and that she suffered retaliation for complaining won a $7.5 million judgment Friday from a St. Louis Circuit Court jury.

"It's absolutely huge for this type of case," said John Eccher, one of the lawyers who represented Tanisha Ross-Paige, in an interview after the verdict.

Although jurors found in favor of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners on a discrimination claim, they awarded Ross-Paige $300,000 in compensatory damages and $7.2 million in punitive damages from the board for retaliation.

Eccher said he 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."

Another of her lawyers, Ryan Paulus, said the verdict may be the highest in Missouri for this type of case, although he estimated that it eventually would be reduced under the law to roughly $3 million, including legal expenses. The legal maximum could grow if the police board appeals, the lawyers added.

A police spokeswoman declined to comment, saying that is policy for ongoing litigation.

The verdict is against the police board, a state agency, based on allegations made before it turned over control of the police department to City Hall last year. Lawyers for the Missouri attorney general's office, which represented the board, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Ross-Paige's original suit claimed 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 suit also claimed that 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. …

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