A Cole County judge has ordered the state to pay an additional $900,000 to a woman who sued the Missouri Veterans Commission and its director alleging age discrimination.
Pat Rowe Kerr was 56 when she was fired from her position as the commission’s senior adviser of veterans’ outreach in 2009. She claimed that she lost a job not because of poor performance, but because Veterans Commission Director Larry Kay has a problem with older, successful women.
In July a jury agreed, awarding Kerr nearly $3 million in damages.
Last week, the judge in the case dismissed a motion by the state for a new trial and awarded Kerr more than $900,000 in fees and costs associated with her lawsuit. The state is expected to appeal.
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Kay was originally put on administrative leave following the jury’s decision, but was reinstated in his job a few weeks later by the Veterans Commission on a 7-1 vote. Following that vote, the union representing state employees in Missouri called for Kay’s resignation and asked Gov. Jay Nixon to join them in the effort.
The governor appoints members of the Veterans Commission, but he does not appoint its director. Kay already had the job when Nixon took office, and the governor has never publicly commented on Kay’s job.
Kerr’s lawsuit is one of a spate of discrimination litigation against Nixon’s administration in recent years.
Last year, for example, a Cole County judge ruled three former employees of the St. James Veterans Home were wrongfully fired because they were active in a labor union. The St. James Veterans Home was represented in the case by Kevin Hall, general counsel for the Missouri Veterans Commission.
Most recently, the governor has been criticized for appointing longtime aide Brian May to serve as a circuit judge in St. Louis County despite a jury ordering May last year to pay damages to a former employee who alleged disability discrimination.
Over the last two years, juries have ordered the state to pay nearly $16 million in damages related to discrimination lawsuits against various agencies in the Nixon administration. There are jury trials in 15 additional discrimination lawsuits scheduled to begin over the next year, although Nixon leaves office in January because of term limits.