Eight correctional officers of color from Ramsey County Jail have filed a discrimination lawsuit against the county alleging they were barred from guarding Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd.
What are the details?
According to copies of the lawsuit obtained by KARE-TV, the officers claim their supervisor barred them from guarding or even being on the same floor as Chauvin after he was taken to Ramsey County Jail when initially being charged with third-degree murder.
Bonnie Smith, the attorney for the eight guards, told NBC News that upon Chauvin's arrival at the jail, her clients were told they had to leave the fifth floor, where Chauvin was being held.
According to Smith, one of her clients was patting Chauvin down at the time when he was allegedly told by the jail superintendent not to escort Chauvin any further. When he raised concern, he was allegedly told by the superintendent that he and other officers of color were a "liability" when handling Chauvin.
In the suit, the correctional officers, who are African-American, Hispanic, and Pacific-Islander-American, call the superintendent's decision a "segregation order" that led to an increasingly "hostile work environment."
Smith told reporters in a press conference that her clients "were hurt and upset that jail leadership did not trust them because of their skin color. These employees are highly trained professionals, whose job it is to keep each other safe, the inmates safe and the jail safe."
The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office is now acknowledging the segregation order after initially denying it, but it says only three officers were reassigned for a total of 45 minutes.
In a statement, Ramsey County Jail Superintendent Steve Lydon said: "Recognizing that the murder of George Floyd was likely to create particularly acute racialized trauma, I felt I had an immediate duty to protect and support employees who may have been traumatized and may have heightened ongoing trauma by having to deal with Chauvin. Out of care and concern, and without the comfort of time, I made the decision to limit exposure to employees of color to a murder suspect who could potentially aggravate those feelings."
In the lawsuit, the correction officers are seeking monetary compensation, diversity training for all jail employees, and discipline for the supervisors responsible, including removal of Lydon from his post.
Lydon's responsibilities have already been modified and a new interim supervisor has been installed while the sheriff's office reviews the matter.
The lawsuit will also automatically trigger an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.