Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Settles Employee Discrimination Lawsuit for $2 Million

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Settles Employee Discrimination Lawsuit for $2 Million

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY * Gov. Jay Nixon's administration has settled another seven-figure gender discrimination lawsuit brought by a longtime state employee.

Documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch note that the state will pay out $1.2 million to former Department of Labor employee Gracia Backer to settle a case she filed in 2014 alleging her former boss had created a hostile work environment for women and older workers.

It is the second time in six months that the state has paid or been ordered to pay a significant sum of money after female workers said they were discriminated against.

And it comes as Missouri is paying out millions of dollars in damages to employees of the state Department of Corrections who alleged they were harassed at work because of sex, religion or disability, and retaliated against for speaking out.

The reports have triggered calls for review from lawmakers and statewide officials.

On Friday, State Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, said she would audit the state's Legal Expense Fund, which is the pool of money used to make payments stemming from lawsuits against the state.

"Like many of my colleagues in state government I was alarmed and dismayed by recent reporting on sexual harassment and discrimination involving Department of Corrections employees, and by the troubling amount of taxpayer money the state is spending to settle these lawsuits," Galloway said in a prepared statement.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, also has called for a review of the harassment cases. House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, is urging Richardson to establish a special investigative committee to launch a probe.

In addition to the money the state owes to Backer, the state must pay her Jefferson City attorney $800,000, records show.

Backer, a resident of New Bloomfield, told the Post-Dispatch she was satisfied with the outcome of the settlement.

"It was a long road," she said Thursday night, adding that she could not comment further under terms of the settlement.

Her attorney, Roger Brown, confirmed Friday that the case had been resolved.

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said the governor would not be commenting on the matter. …

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