Eight correctional officers won a discrimination lawsuit against Ramsey County on Tuesday after they successfully argued they were prevented from guarding Derek Chauvin because of their race.
The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners approved the agreements during an agenda meeting, settling the lawsuit filed in February 2021. A total of $1,455,000 will be split among the eight jail officers.
The officers, who identify as Black, Hispanic, Pacific-Islander and mixed race, work at the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center (ADC), where Derek Chauvin was being held after he was initially charged with the murder of George Floyd.
The jail workers claimed that ADC Superintendent Steve Lydon gave verbal orders that prohibited them from interacting with and guarding Chauvin, as well as being ordered not to go anywhere near the fifth floor where he was being held.
Lt. Lugene Werner, who is white, was seen on jail cameras by two of the correctional officers being granted "special access" to Chauvin on May 30, 2020. The suit states she was seeing sitting on his bed, patting Chauvin's back and appeared to comfort him, while also letting him use a cell phone.
In an unanimous vote, the board agreed that the officers were subjected to discrimination and a hostile work environment based on their race and skin color.
The settlement win will be broken up into the following:
- Two officers will get $250,625
- One officer will get $75,625
- Five officers will get $175,625
The settlement states that 45% of each payment will go towards attorney fees, except for the person getting the lower amount. More than half of his amount will go towards attorney fees.
In addition, the county must also issue a written statement that acknowledges Lydon's order was discriminatory and wrong, and he must apologize for it.
Attorney Lucas Kaster, who represented the officers in the lawsuit, provided the following statement to Bring Me The News on Tuesday:
“We thank the Ramsey County Board for approving the settlement and apologizing to the plaintiffs for the segregation order. The courage of these eight officers cannot be overstated. During an unprecedented time in our community, the officers took the bold action to step forward and speak out against the segregation and racism they experienced. The past two years have not been easy for them, but the Board’s actions today acknowledge the harm experienced by the officers and are critical steps toward justice and accountability.”