On Tuesday (Aug. 9), eight minority corrections officers were awarded nearly $1.5 million in a racial discrimination lawsuit. The officers filed the complaint after a superintendent working at the Ramsey County Jail banned officers of color from working on the floor where Derek Chauvin was being held. The county is also required to apologize in a written statement and acknowledge their discriminatory acts, per the settlement.
The eight guards – who identify as African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander American and multiracial – argue that they were prohibited from doing their job because of the color of their skin. Superintendent Steve Lydon didn’t believe they could be trusted to professionally complete their duties around Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd. One of the plaintiffs routinely booked and supervised the transportation of high-risk or high-profile inmates. When Chauvin arrived, the guard, a Black man, began the booking process, which included patting down Chauvin. Lydon was supervising the process and replaced the plaintiff with two white guards. Shortly after, another defendant said they were being reassigned from the fifth floor, where Chauvin was being housed.
Another accuser who was watching the cameras in the jail noticed the guards who were minorities were all cluttered on the third floor instead of being dispersed throughout the building as usual. The white and Black lighter-skinned guards were not reassigned. There was an instance where there was a call for help with an uncooperative inmate on Chauvin’s floor, and the minority guards who responded were turned away. Another time, a white lieutenant was granted special access to Chauvin’s cell in May and comforted him with a pat on the back. The lawsuit alleges the lieutenant even allowed Chauvin to use a phone.
An attorney for the guards, Lucas Kaster said, “Segregation has no place in society or the workplace and on May 29, 2020, eight Ramsey County correctional officers experienced blatant discrimination based on their race and skin color. Ramsey County’s segregation order caused immediate and lasting harm to the correctional officers and the jail environment.”
Kaster explained the emotional distress the guards endured after being reassigned because of their skin color. He said, “The impact on our clients has been immense. They’re deeply humiliated and distressed and the bonds necessary within the high stress and high pressure environment of the (jail) have been broken.”