Eight minority Minnesota jail guards were awarded a $1.5 million settlement after they filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination from a Ramsey County Jail superintendent, AP reports. The officers filed a complaint claiming Steve Lydon barred them from working on the floor where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was being held. Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter involving the 2020 death of George Floyd. The settlement was approved during a meeting of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners,
Officers’ attorneys’ acknowledged eight officers who brought the lawsuit identified as Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander-American, and multiracial. The settlement also calls for the county to apologize in a written statement and acknowledge that the order was discriminatory and wrong. A part of the settlement noted that the county “has denied and continues to deny liability.”
Shortly after, Board Chairwoman Trista MatasCastillo apologized in a statement. MastasCastillo went on to say the decisions by leaders in the sheriff’s department, which runs the jail, were “more than just wrong — they were racist, heinous, highly disrespectful and completely out of line with Ramsey County’s vision and values.”
Eight guards alleged Ramsey County violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act by discriminating against them because of their race and creating a hostile work environment. They claimed that Lydon believed they could not be trusted to professionally perform their duties around Chauvin and ordered them to “segregate” from the floor.
Lyon would say he did make the order but shortly rescinded it.
“Recognizing that the murder of George Floyd was likely to create particularly acute racialized trauma, I felt I had an immediate duty to protect and support employees who may have been traumatized and may have heightened ongoing trauma by having to deal with Chauvin,” Lydon said at the time.
“Out of care and concern, and without the comfort of time, I made the decision to limit exposure to employees of color to a murder suspect who could potentially aggravate those feelings.”
An attorney for the correctional officers, Lucas J. Kaster, commended the officers for their bravery and acknowledged the past two years “couldn’t have been easy for them.”
“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,” Kaster said in a statement.