Government & Politics

Kansas City settles water employee’s lawsuit for $500,000

The Kansas City Council voted Thursday to settle a workplace employment lawsuit in the Water Services department for $500,000.
The Kansas City Council voted Thursday to settle a workplace employment lawsuit in the Water Services department for $500,000. File photo by The Star

The Kansas City Council agreed Thursday to settle a water department employee’s lawsuit claim of a sexually hostile workplace for $500,000.

The settlement ends an employment discrimination case that went to trial earlier this year, in which the city won most counts but not all. The settlement covers all damages and attorneys’ fees and ends the need for an appeal that could have been even more costly.

Kansas City Water Services chemist LaDonna Nunley, who has worked for the department for 24 years, sued the city in 2015. She said she had been treated unfairly because she is black, had been passed over for promotion by younger white employees and had been retaliated against because she complained.

A Jackson County jury sided with the city on those counts last month but found in favor of Nunley on a sexual harassment claim, awarding her $25,000 in compensation and $125,000 in punitive damages.

Nunley said a water department employee made sexually graphic remarks to her despite her protests.

Plaintiff’s attorney David Lunceford said Thursday that trial testimony showed multiple vulgar comments were made over the years and the city never investigated it, nor was anyone ever disciplined for the comments.

The settlement resolves the trial judgment and immediately retires the plaintiff. But two similar cases are headed for trial later this year. One of those plaintiffs is longtime lab supervisor Wilbur Dunnell, known locally as “Dr. H2O” for his educational videos with school children.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

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