A federal jury last week awarded seven workers nearly $15 million in a racial discrimination suit after their bosses reportedly segregated them and called them “lazy, stupid Africans.” The workers took action and refused to become further victimized by a culture steeped in racism.
The Denver Post reports:
Six of the plaintiffs are Black, many from Mali [in West Africa]. One plaintiff is a White whistle-blower who was fired for challenging racist practices of the California-based company. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in 2010.
“I thought I was back South again with the same old racist attitudes,” said plaintiff Ernie Duke, who was raised in Missouri.
The verdict against Matheson Trucking and Matheson Flight Extenders Inc. included $14 million in punitive damages, said attorney Lynn Feiger, who was among those representing the workers. The company handles and transports mail for the Postal Service and private vendors, including United Parcel Service and FedEx.
An attorney for Matheson told the Denver Post that the company plans to appeal the decision.
(Matheson) prides itself on hiring and employing a highly diverse workforce consisting of men and women of different races and cultures,” attorney Stacey Campbell said in a statement to The Denver Post.
The suit alleges that racism ran unchecked at the warehouse.
At the business, Black employees all worked on one side of the warehouse and Whites worked on the other side, the lawsuit said. White supervisors and staffers called employees racial epithets and “lazy, stupid Africans.”
White employees and supervisors often used the N-word when referring to black workers, including an instance when an employee yelled that all blacks should be shot. A supervisor who heard the comment didn’t discipline the white employee, who later was promoted to a supervisory position, the lawsuit said.
The judgment includes $318,000 in back pay for employees who were fired, furloughed or had their hours cut because of their race, Justin Plaskov, the plaintiff’s attorney told the Post. An additional $650,000 was awarded for emotional distress. Also, Matheson probably will have to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs, the report says.