ST. LOUIS – The City of St. Louis has settled another discrimination lawsuit filed by its own officers.
Another high-profile case awaits trial in May.
The cases are about promotions from the rank of Major to Lt. Colonel, which is just one step below Chief. The cases may end up costing the city in the millions of dollars for allegedly discriminating against officers because they are white or because they are women.
Major Michael Caruso sued close to a year ago. Major Rochelle Jones sued a week later after Major Ronnie Robinson was promoted to Lt. Colonel ahead of them both in September of 2015.
Robinson is an African-American male. Jones is an African-American female. Caruso is a white male.
In spite of the suits, all still work for the department.
“To think that every time you’re discriminated against you have to pack up your bag and go somewhere else and start over anew, that’s really not the fair process,” said Jones attorney, J.C. Pleban. “The fair process is to then attempt to affect change.”
Change, not money, was the primary motive for both suits, Pleban said.
His firm also represents Caruso.
Both suits claim Robinson was promoted with fewer years on the force than Jones and Caruso, even though Robinson does not have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Both Jones and Caruso do.
The suits claim that based upon an outside firm’s competency-based assessment, Robinson ranked a distant third.
They also claim the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department did not promote Jones because of her gender, female, and Caruso because of his race, white.
Caruso’s settlement agreement bars attorneys from talking about the terms, attorneys said.
Jones is suing for lost wages and benefits, emotional pain and suffering, plus punitive damages. She’s also asking the court to order her promotion to Lt. Colonel.
“Absolutely their motivation is more than just money,” Pleban said of the plaintiffs. “I think part of it is through the lawsuits they have trying to impact change in the department…the fix was in from the beginning.”
Attorneys in the St. Louis City Counselor’s office have denied Jones’ claim of gender discrimination in court filings.
City Counselor, Julian Bush, told Fox 2 he could not comment on the Jones case because the litigation is still pending.
They also denied Caruso’s allegation of racial discrimination but then agreed to a settlement.
Fox 2/News 11 are filing a public records request to find out the city’s cost.
Both cases point to a 2013 jury verdict in favor of a police sergeant for $620,000. The sergeant claimed he was passed over because he was white.