On Friday, February 28, a Hennepin County jury returned a $150,000 verdict for our client, Officer Bradley Wingate, in a whistleblower case. Officer Wingate is a police officer employed by the Metropolitan Airport Commission (“MAC”), where he has been working at the MSP Airport since 2005. Officer Wingate was represented at trial by Nichols Kaster, PLLP attorneys David Schlesinger and Lucas Kaster and paralegal Christine Rued.
From 2010-2013, Officer Wingate reported that another police officer was engaged in a pattern of inappropriate and illegal misconduct, which included taking photographs of officers with little or no clothing on in locker rooms (and posting some such photographs to a private You Tube channel), and photo-shopping other photos to look like officers were engaged in homosexual sex acts. When Wingate felt his initial complaints were not adequately addressed and the officer he reported continued to engage in misconduct, Officer Wingate made several additional reports to supervisory police officers within the MAC.
It was undisputed during the trial that Officer Wingate was an exceptionally skilled police officer, but following his reports, the MAC repeatedly refused to promote him. In 2012, the MAC promoted the officer that Officer Wingate had reported for misconduct rather than Officer Wingate. In 2013, the MAC started a promotion process over again rather than promote Officer Wingate when he was the top remaining candidate on the promotion list. The MAC again refused to promote Officer Wingate in a 2014 promotion process. In 2017, as the result of yet another promotion process, Officer Wingate was first on the promotion list, but then was again rejected for the position. Throughout these processes, MAC’s supervisory police officers made several statements to the effect that Officer Wingate needed to “let this issue [with the other officer] go” and that there was “no way” Officer Wingate should be promoted.
Nichols Kaster, PLLP brought suit on Officer Wingate’s behalf in late-2017, alleging that MAC’s repeated failure to promote him was due to his protected complaints of the other officer’s misconduct. Following discovery, the district court dismissed the case on summary judgment, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed. Last week, a Hennepin County jury agreed that MAC had retaliated against Officer Wingate in violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act, and awarded him $75,000 in compensatory damages for emotional distress, and $75,000 in lost wages. Our motion for attorney’s fees and costs will be forthcoming.