JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri officials paid $132,219 to settle a gender discrimination case brought by a former state employee.
According to a report issued by Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the money was paid out in August after an agreement was reached between lawyers in his office and representatives of former grain inspector Erica Payne.
Of the settlement, Payne will receive $67,042, with attorneys receiving the rest.
The settlement is the latest in a string of six-figure, taxpayer-financed payouts to female state workers who said they were victims of discrimination by bosses and co-workers.
The lion’s share of those cases have occurred in the Missouri Department of Corrections, where female correctional officers have won numerous settlements and court cases.
In response, Department of Corrections officials established an Office of Professional Standards in 2017 and implemented a zero-tolerance policy for managers who failed to respond to misconduct allegations.
The agency also has beefed up the number of women in leadership posts.
The state spent $33.6 million on legal payouts in the fiscal year ending on June 30, compared to $28.2 million in the previous year. The state faces an even higher amount in the current year because of a $113.7 million jury verdict won by the state’s correctional officers, who sued the state for withholding back pay and won. The case is currently being appealed by Schmitt’s office.
Payne filed suit in 2015, alleging she was passed over for a promotion at the Department of Agriculture’s St. Joseph field office because she is a woman. She also alleged her supervisor, Jimmy Williams, program administrator in the Missouri Grain Inspection Program, yelled at her and pointed his fingers at her when she raised questions about the promotion, court records said.
In her initial complaint, Payne said Williams’ conduct “reflects an evil motive.”
Payne, who had worked for the state since 2003 and was making about $40,000 annually, resigned from the agency later that year.
Williams remains in his post at a salary of $69,768, up from $62,231 when the alleged incident took place.