A federal jury awarded seven workers nearly $15 million in a racial discrimination suit (George Doyle/Getty Images)
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.
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, and that the company “prides itself on hiring and employing a highly diverse workforce consisting of men and women of different races and cultures.”
The suit alleges that racism ran unchecked at the warehouse. Reports 9News in Colorado:
According to the lawsuit, black employees worked on one side of the warehouse and whites worked on the other side. White supervisors and staff were accused of calling employees racial epithets and “lazy, stupid Africans.”
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. A company lawyer said Matheson plans to appeal, according to 9News.