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Eight Correctional Officers Subjected to Segregation Order File Lawsuit Against Ramsey County

Nichols Kaster is Representing the Officers, who faced Race- and Color-Based Discrimination during Derek Chauvin’s Detention at the Ramsey County Jail

On February 9, eight current and former correctional officers at the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center filed suit against Ramsey County under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The correctional officers – who were segregated when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was processed and held at the jail – assert claims of discrimination and hostile work environment based on their race and the color of their skin. This suit follows the charges of discrimination against Ramsey County that the eight correctional officers filed in June 2020 with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

Minneapolis-based law firm Nichols Kaster, PLLP, is representing the plaintiffs in the suit, joining Bonnie Smith from Shannon Law, LLC.

“Segregation has no place in society or the workplace and on May 29, 2020, eight Ramsey County correctional officers experienced blatant discrimination based on their race and skin color,” said Lucas J. Kaster of Nichols Kaster, PLLP, one of the attorneys representing the correctional officers. “Ramsey County’s segregation order caused immediate and lasting harm to the correctional officers and the jail environment. This lawsuit seeks to hold Ramsey County accountable for their degrading, unsafe and illegal treatment of correctional officers.”

The complaint alleges that on May 29, 2020, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was arrested following the murder of George Floyd four days prior. By mid-afternoon, officers from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension transported Officer Chauvin to the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center.

As alleged in the complaint, prior to Chauvin’s arrival, Ramsey County Adult Detention Center Superintendent Steve Lydon issued a segregation order, prohibiting all correctional officers of color from interacting with or guarding Officer Chauvin, or going anywhere on the fifth floor, where Officer Chauvin was to be held. As a result of Superintendent Lydon’s order, all officers of color who were assigned in those areas were segregated from Officer Chauvin and reassigned to other locations within the jail.

The eight correctional officers who are bringing this suit identify as Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander-American and multiracial. Superintendent Lydon’s segregation order affected all non-white officers on duty. The segregation order was outside the scope of normal jail operations and caused disruptions that affected the safety of correctional officers and people held at the facility. 

Later that afternoon, an emergency call occurred within the jail and multiple officers of color responded. When the officers of color arrived, however, due to Superintendent Lydon’s segregation order, they were prohibited from completing the emergency protocol until white officers arrived.

As alleged in the complaint, Superintendent Lydon refused to allow the Plaintiffs and other officers of color to complete their professional responsibilities because of their race and the color of their skin. Plaintiffs understood the order to segregate them was made because Superintendent Lydon and Ramsey County did not trust them to carry out their work responsibilities professionally due to their race and the color of their skin. Plaintiffs seek economic and emotional damages as part of the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are represented by Matthew H. Morgan and Lucas Kaster of Nichols Kaster, PLLP, and Bonnie Smith of Shannon Law, LLC. The case is filed in Minnesota’s Second Judicial District Court.