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Black Electrician Receives $1M from Kansas City, Missouri, In Discrimination Claim Settlement

After being hit with several lawsuits claiming discrimination on multiple grounds, Kansas City, Missouri, officials have reluctantly agreed to pay a hefty settlement to one former city worker. The seven-figure payout is one of many expenses the city will pay to resolve claims that the city has treated its workers differently based on race, gender, and other identifiers.

On Thursday, June 16, the Kansas City Council approved a decision to pay over $1.3 million to resolve three work race-based claims and a one personal injury lawsuit related to a crash with a fire truck, the Kansas City Star reports.

Ronald Williams, who is a Black former city water department maintenance electrician, will receive $1 million after the city settled his racial discrimination claim. 

In a lawsuit filed in 2018 through a Jackson County Circuit Court. Williams’ complaint laid out how during his six-year tenure with the Water Service Department, between June 2011 to January 2017, the city violated his civil rights as mandated in the Missouri Human Rights Act.

The worker alleged his supervisors would not permit him to take a training course that could have earned him a promotion out of retaliation for him contradicting another white electrician. He also stated he heard one of his supervisors refer to African-American electricians as “incompetent” (based solely on their race) multiple times.

Originally, according to NPR, a Jackson County jury ruled in February of 2020 that Williams’ rights had been violated and agreed to award him $790,000 ($504,000 in punitive damages and $286,000 in compensatory damages). Later, a judge would say the city would have to cover Williams’ legal fees, which totaled nearly half a million dollars.

The city appealed the decision in 2021, but the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld it and subsequently the Missouri Supreme Court shot down the city’s later motion to review the case, leading to the historic settlement.

Williams’ million-dollar settlement is the largest of four settlements unanimously voted on this month by the Council.

Two of the other claims were also discrimination cases, claiming civil rights violations. 

One was filed by Keith Bowman, a former water department meter reader, who claimed he endured discrimination, illegal retaliation, a hostile work environment, and that white workers were given preferential treatment over him, all in violation of his rights as per the Missouri Human Rights Act. Bowman is also Black.

The city settled Bowman’s lawsuit for $75,000.

Bowman’s award is only half of Neheema Clarke’s award. The Kansas City Fire Department cadet will receive $150,000 to settle her 2021 race and gender discrimination lawsuit, where she, a Black woman, alleged others working in the department mocked and touched her hair without reprimand. Because she was not protected from the negative comments and the unwanted touching, she felt uncomfortable and “like an exhibit.”

The personal injury settlement is connected to a civilian in a 2012 Mazda crashing with a Kansas City fire truck in November of 2020 at 39th Street and Benton Boulevard. The awardee will receive $98,500 for his case.

Combined, all three of the other settlements totaled $323,500.

None of the four awardees have commented on their settlements. Nor has the council released a statement.

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