A St. Louis high school guidance counselor was awarded over $6 million in damages for sex discrimination and retaliation after being held to a different standard than his female colleagues.
The jury awarded Ron Spivey $940,000 in compensatory damages for lost wages, benefits and emotional distress. Jurors tacked on an additional $5.2 million in punitive damages after concluding the St. Louis Public School District’s conduct was “outrageous” due to its “reckless indifference to the rights of others.”
Spivey worked at Soldan International Studies High School for over 14 years as a guidance counselor and track and cross-country coach. Spivey said he’d received positive reviews for most of his tenure until the school hired a new vice principal.
Spivey attorney Julianne Germinder says once ChanTam Trinh became vice principal in 2013 Spivey was held to a different standard than his female colleagues.
“He was the only one who was being criticized, put on performance improvement plans and ultimately terminated for doing the thing that everybody was doing,” Germinder said, according to Missouri Lawyers Media.
The lawsuit argued the female Trinh favored the younger women and “frequently demeaned, belittled and yelled at Spivey, the only male counselor at the high school.”
In 2017, Trinh put him on a performance improvement plan that Spivey claimed was designed for him to fail. He filed a complaint with the school district, but the district didn’t investigate the complaint, according to KMOV4.
In March 2017, Trinh failed Spivey on his performance improvement plan. When Spivey requested a transfer to a different high school the transfer was arranged but then blocked. Instead, Spivey was fired without explanation by the school district.
The school district claimed Spivey was ineligible for a transfer, but evidence showed that his transfer had indeed been approved by the district’s director of performance management, according to KMOV4.
Spivey was replaced by a female counselor with less experience, reports St. Louis Today.
Spivey filed a discrimination complaint in September 2017 with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights before filing a lawsuit.
St. Louis Public Schools spokesperson George Sells said, “We are disappointed with the verdict that was reached and are exploring our options for an appeal.”