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Jury awards former Ohio trooper $2.6M in sexual discrimination suit

The jury awarded Stacey Yerkes about $1.3 million in damages, about $600,000 in back pay, and about $680,000 in front pay


By Brendan Rascius
The Charlotte Observer

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Stacey Yerkes had just started her job at the Ohio State Highway Patrol when she says a colleague made a disheartening comment.

“There has only been one other female here before you, so try not to screw it up and make females look bad,” she says she was told.

In the days, months and years that followed, Yerkes, who is gay, said she was harassed and discriminated against because of her gender and sexual orientation. Now, after she filed a civil lawsuit in 2019, a jury has awarded her $2.6 million, multiple media outlets report.

A spokesperson for the OSHP did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.

Yerkes joined the OSHP in 1994, where she quickly exceeded expectations, according to court documents.

She received multiple awards and rose through the ranks, being promoted from trooper to sergeant.

But her professional success did not stop coworkers and superiors from harassing her, she said in her lawsuit.

One of them said, “Women are only promoted here because they are women, not because of merit,” Yerkes said. She also said she consistently heard colleagues use obscenities to describe women.

On one occasion, her supervisor asked her about her underwear after a coworker asked if she had sex with a woman in a “back room” at a party, Yerkes said.

Further, she said she was given “demeaning” tasks that were not in her job description and was disciplined for actions that her male heterosexual colleagues performed without consequence, according to court documents.

In 2018, Yerkes was written up for violating the OSHP’s tattoo policy, an admonishment that never happened to her male colleagues with tattoos, she said. Rather than face demotion, she retired.

Yerkes then filed a civil lawsuit against the OSHP in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in 2019, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Following a trial that began on July 31, the jury awarded her about $1.3 million in damages, about $600,000 in back pay, and about $680,000 in front pay, according to the outlet.

Over 40% of women say they’ve encountered gender discrimination in the workplace, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center poll. A similar percentage of employees identifying as LGBT reported experiencing workplace discrimination because of their sexual orientation, according to data from the UCLA School of Law.

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