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Home / News / Local / Missouri pays $2M in prison worker discrimination settlement

Missouri pays $2M in prison worker discrimination settlement

Missouri shelled out more than $2 million last month to settle the latest worker discrimination case against the state’s prison system.

Richard Dixson, a white employee of the minimum security Kansas City Re-Entry Center, was awarded the money after a jury agreed in 2017 that he was subjected to racial discrimination and a contentious work environment. Managers retaliated after Dixson complained, his lawsuit said.

The attorney general’s office publicly released records Monday that show Dixson received a check for $651,000 in January and his attorney collected $951,585, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The remaining money went to other court expenses and to a state fund that reserves cash for victims.

Dixson’s award is the most recent costly check that Missouri paid out in relation to workplace issues within state government.

Republican lawmakers had proposed legislation that would absolve the state from facing financial penalties for wrongdoing in some types of lawsuits.

Although the concept could resurface before lawmakers adjourn in May, the provision was removed from a bill approved by the Senate last week after hours of closed-door negotiations over other changes to the state’s law concerning punitive damages in lawsuits.

Dixson’s settlement money also comes as the union representing rank-and-file employees at the Missouri Department of Corrections is on the verge of bankruptcy, which raises questions about how worker grievances will be handled moving forward.

Gary Gross, executive director of the Missouri Correctional Officers Association, recently told the newspaper that a decision by Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s administration to stop withholding union dues from 5,500 workers’ paychecks has left the union with insufficient funds to operate through the end of March.

Missouri paid more than $24 million in 2019 to settle lawsuits, many of which stemmed from employee discrimination and harassment cases brought against the state Department of Corrections, according to the attorney general’s office.

The number is below the previous two years, but it remains a vexing problem for lawmakers who are drafting the state budget and cannot depend on that money for schools and social services.

The total paid out of the state’s Legal Expense Fund was $28.8 million in 2018, compared with $25 million the year prior.

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