Eight officers working at the jail holding a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder following the death of George Floyd allege they were barred from guarding the accused because of their race.
Mr Floyd died on May 25 after Derek Chauvin used his knee to pin him to the ground.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and is being held at the Ramsey County Jail on a one million US dollar (£809,792) bond.
Eight Ramsey County prison officers filed racial discrimination charges with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights on Friday alleging that when Chauvin was booked into the jail, all officers “of colour” were ordered to a separate floor, according to the Star Tribune newspaper, which obtained a copy of the charges.
The charges allege that a supervisor told one of the officers that because of their race, they would be a potential “liability” around Chauvin.
Bonnie Smith, a Minneapolis lawyer representing the eight employees, said the order had left a lasting impact on morale.
“I think they deserve to have employment decisions made based on performance and behaviour,” she said.
“Their main goal is to make sure this never happens again.”
Prison superintendent Steve Lydon allegedly told superiors that he was informed that day that Chauvin would be arriving in 10 minutes and he made a call “to protect and support” minority employees by shielding them from Chauvin.
“Out of care and concern, and without the comfort of time, I made a decision to limit exposure to employees of colour to a murder suspect who could potentially aggravate those feelings,” Mr Lydon said in a statement given during an internal investigation. He has since been demoted.
The discrimination charges are expected to automatically trigger a state investigation.
This would mark the second Department of Human Rights racism probe into a law enforcement agency in recent weeks.
The state launched a sweeping inquiry into the Minneapolis Police Department following Mr Floyd’s death.