Jackson County legislators voted this week to pay $150,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former corrections officer who said he was belitted for an injury and singled out for retaliation when he complained about it.
Legislators met with officials in the county counselor’s office in closed session for less than 20 minutes Monday and then voted in open session for the settlement with Daniel W. Smith III of Oak Grove.
Smith had sued the county last year, alleging violations of the Missouri Human Rights Act, retaliation and a hostile work environment.
Smith, who worked at the county jail, sustained injuries to his left knee and leg – torn ligaments, a torn meniscus and a fractured tibia – in August 2015, leaving him with a limp, wearing a brace and using crutches. He was off work until November, when his doctor cleared him for light duty, according to his lawsuit.
Back at work, he said coworkers and management called him names that included “gimp” and “cripple.” He said, in court papers, that a lieutenant told him he could stop limping and a captain asked, “When are you going to stop faking it?” and “Are you liking the banking hours?”
He went back on full duty the following May. He had taken his complaints to Human Resources that spring, but the harassment continued, he said.
The county lacked handicapped parking for employees, so he was given a lieutenant’s parking spot and, he says, was harassed about that.
He said he was singled out in several ways: He was denied a gold coin for successfully intervening with a suicidal inmate, but other employees got gold coins. He said he was denied vacation but others weren’t. He said he was humiliated about overtime in front of his supervisors. He says the county took from him a family heirloom, a vintage padlock.
At one point, he says he had to sit in a video room with no windows or ventilation to monitor suicidal inmates for up to 12 hours a day without breaks, meaning he had to urinate into plastic cups. The cameras didn’t work properly – they also were “continuously smeared with feces and toilet paper by the inmates” – but his requests for repairs were ignored.
He said he was disciplined for an incident with suicidal inmate (the inmate “was up walking around less than a minute” after being found on the floor, according to his lawsuit) while others were not.
The county fired him in August 2018.
The county says it investigated the lawsuit, used mediation and negotiations and arrived at the county counselor’s recommendation to settle for $150,000.