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Captain at 'The Workhouse' says he was targeted, fired for complaining about conditions

He is suing the City of St. Louis and five people he claims are involved in a conspiracy to get him fired.
The St. Louis Medium Security Institution

ST. LOUIS — In a lawsuit filed last week, a captain and longtime employee at 'The Workhouse' is claiming he was targeted by his superiors and fired for complaining about conditions at the facility.

Melvin Diggs started working at the jail in 1989 and rose through the ranks until being named a captain in 2008. During his time at the facility, he regularly told staff and supervisors of poor conditions, including rat infestations, dangerously high and low temperatures and flooding due to broken windows, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit also said he encouraged inmates and other employees to write down their complaints.

The lawsuit said Diggs responded to a use-of-force incident on April 4, 2017, that was already over when he arrived. The lawsuit said he filed the proper paperwork. Later that month, Diggs was told his supervisors were targeting him using the use-of-force incident.

When Diggs was told he would be disciplined for the incident, he told his supervisor that he had proof that he followed the rules and the lieutenant in the incident backed him up, according to the lawsuit.

Despite the proof, he was suspended for 15 days.

Diggs then filed a grievance saying he thought he was targeted for making complaints about the conditions. The lawsuit said his supervisors ignored that request and cited him again in June for the same incident.

After taking time off through the Family and Medical Leave Act, he returned to work, but he was fired two days later.

The lawsuit said he was fired because a coworker claimed Diggs threatened to "shoot up the place" in a phone call. Diggs said that he never said that, and that no evidence was produced in a pre-termination hearing.

He appealed his firing to the Civil Service Commission, where co-workers testified to his good record as an employee. They also said a supervisor interrogated them about their testimony and that the workplace violence policy was inconsistently enforced.

The lawsuit says people named in the suit provided conflicting testimony and said another person heard Diggs' threat despite having no written statement, in accordance with the policy.

The appeal is ongoing, but Diggs has been without health insurance and hasn't been able to get treatment for cancer.

He is suing the City of St. Louis and five people he claims are involved in a conspiracy to get him fired.

We reached out to the city for a statement. A spokesman said they do not have a comment on pending litigation.