In late December of 2017, Richard Dixson successfully sued the Missouri Department of corrections for $1.5 million dollars in lost wages and punitive damages. Dixson alleged that ongoing racial harassment subjected him to a hostile work environment. Dixson was then working for the Kansas City Re-Entry Center, which is a minimum-security prison.
The majority of that settlement, a whopping $1.2 million, was awarded for punitive damages that stemmed from retaliation against Mr. Dixson for filing a complaint with his managers. Dixson claimed that the management retaliated, removing him from his position and replacing him with someone who was less qualified. He further alleges that he was denied the use of flex-time to spend with his family and for medical appointments required after a car accident.
In this instance, Mr. Dixson’s attorneys were able to prove only the retaliation, which is significant for a number of reasons.
Dixson’s Case Against the Missouri Department of Corrections
What is fascinating about Mr. Dixson’s case, other than the fact that he is a white man alleging discrimination on the part of his employers, is that his lawsuit made four claims against the Missouri DoC. These included:
- Dixson suffered ongoing racial discrimination in the workplace.
- Dixson was subject to a hostile work environment.
- Dixson was denied an investigation of his claims.
- Dixson was retaliated against for filing a complaint.
In this instance, the jury did not find sufficient evidence to rule in Mr. Dixson’s favor on any of the events the precipitated the retaliation. They did, however, believe that Mr. Dixson was retaliated against.
In other words, if Mr. Dixson’s immediate superiors had not retaliated against him for filing the complaint against other employees, Mr. Dixson could have very well lost his case entirely.
Why did the Jury Find Evidence of Retaliation?
There were a number of factors that worked in Mr. Dixson’s favor when it came to the retaliation charge. Firstly, Mr. Dixson was named employee of the month in January of 2011. The agency director had written him a letter of congratulations for recapturing a convicted sex offender who had violated his parole. In addition, Dixson had gone out of his way to help recent parolees with clothing collected from area businesses. In other words, Mr. Dixson was in good standing with his superiors until he filed a complaint against them.
Workplaces May Not Retaliate for Complaints
Missouri’s Department of Corrections has a poor track record when it comes to workplace harassment and hostile work environment suits. This is largely because their management has decided that it is best practice to retaliate against those who file any sort of complaint. This is, of course, illegal, and in the case of Mr. Dixson, proved to be a costly lesson to a department that now faces increasing scrutiny from not only the public, but from legislators, as well.
Have You Been the Victim of Retaliation or Discrimination?
If so, the HKM Employment Law of Kansas City can help you make your case. As always, involving a lawyer in the process early is your best bet to securing a fair settlement. Give us a call at 816.607.4691 and we will discuss your case with you.