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Fired Lesbian Highway Patrol Officer Wins Discrimination Suit

Stacey Arnold Yerkes with lawsuit text

Stacey Arnold Yerkes (image courtesy of Yerkes) with text from her lawsuit

Earlier this month, a federal jury found that the Ohio Highway Patrol discriminated against Stacey Arnold Yerkes because of her gender and sexual orientation. She was awarded over $2.6 million in damages and lost wages after the jury agreed with all four claims she brought in the lawsuit she filed in 2019.

“The verdict was essentially exactly what we asked the jury for. We are grateful for that and we think that it provided full justice for Stacey,” John C. Camillus, an attorney for Yerkes, told Tagg Magazine.

Yerkes was employed by the Ohio State Highway Patrol for nearly 25 years and rose from cadet through the ranks to state trooper to sergeant. She received numerous awards through her years of service.

But despite her record of excellent service, her suit describes a hostile work environment as both a woman and as a lesbian. Her straight male co-workers repeatedly made comments about women only being promoted because of their gender instead of their merit, calling them slurs, and saying they’re too emotional. They made insulting comments about Yerkes’s short haircut, makeup, body shape, and sexuality. When Yerkes requested family leave for the birth of her and her wife’s son, she was denied because she was told “it’s not the same.”

After Yerkes filed a labor complaint for not being given her requested family leave and that complaint was denied, co-workers and supervisors began to criticize her work performance in discriminatory ways. She was criticized for not wearing her hat during a traffic stop, leaving her shift early, and leaving her patrol car running and unattended in a patrol parking lot, when male co-workers were documented doing all of the same things and it wasn’t mentioned and they were not disciplined.

Yerkes was ultimately offered a last chance agreement in 2018 that would demote her and lower her pay. She chose to resign instead of be fired to help her future job prospects.

Only 10 percent of Ohio’s full-time state law enforcement officers are female, just a bit below the 12 percent statistic for all law enforcement officers nationally.

“If this case does anything to spotlight the importance of equal treatment in the workplace for women or for LGBTQ employees, I’m very pleased that would have that effect,” Camillus tells Tagg. “For me the case was never about that, it was about Stacey, and what happened to her was not just wrong but illegal and we needed to fight to right that wrong for her.”



Sarah Prager
Sarah Prager
Sarah Prager is the author of the award-winning Queer, There, and Everywhere: 27 People Who Changed the World, Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBTQ+ People Who Made History, Kind Like Marsha: Learning from LGBTQ+ Leaders, and A Child's Introduction to Pride: The Inspirational History and Culture of the LGBTQIA+ Community. Learn more about her speaking, writing, and more at www.sarahprager.com.