A jury awarded an Oregon woman $1 million in damages after it found that a gas station employee had discriminated against her by telling her, “I don’t serve Black people,” the Associated Press reports.
This week, the Multnomah County jury’s award to Portland resident Rose Wakefield included punitive damages of $550,000.
According to Wakefield’s lawyer, Gregory Kafoury, the 63-year-old stopped for gas at Jacksons Food Store in Beaverton on March 12, 2020, and the attendant Nigel Powers, ignored and instead pumped gas for other drivers.
When she asked for help, he replied, “I’ll get to you when I feel like it,” Kafoury said.
According to the AP, attendants must pump fuel for motorists at gas stations in Oregon’s larger population centers, including Portland and its neighboring suburb of Beaverton.
Wakefield was seen on surveillance video going inside to ask for assistance. Another employee assisted her. Her attorney says that as she was leaving, Wakefield asked Powers why he refused to assist her, and he replied, “I don’t serve Black people.”
She complained to managers twice the following week, but her phone calls were largely ignored, according to her attorney.
Kafoury says Powers was fired a month later after corporate records revealed he had been reprimanded several times for talking on his cell phone.
“I was like, ‘What world am I living in?’ ” Wakefield told KGW. “This is not supposed to go down like that. It was a terrible, terrible confrontation between me and this guy.”
“She told her friends that it was too disturbing, and she didn’t want to deal with it. And then she thought about it and said, ‘It’s too wrong. I have to do something about it,’”Kafoury said.
According to a statement by Jacksons Food Stores on Thursday, the company has a zero-tolerance policy for any form of discrimination and respectfully disagrees with the jury’s decision because “our knowledge does not align with the verdict.”