A Black woman received a $366 million dollar jury award after suing her former employer for racial discrimination and retaliation.
Jennifer Harris of Fort Worth, Texas, won the judgment after suing FedEx, her employer of 12 years, whom she accused of terminating her unjustly after she reported a supervisor’s hostile behavior towards her.
Harris worked for the carrier from 2007 to 2019 and said she climbed the ranks due to her dedication, Atlanta Black Star reported.
“I worked really hard [and] was extremely successful. I was moved and promoted six times and moved and promoted into leadership; and held three leadership positions at the district sales manager level,” Harris told ABS.
In her lawsuit, Harris accused her supervisor of asking her to take a demotion “to a lower position because she was ‘so good’ at what she was doing.”
In a separate interview with WFAA, Harris said her supervisor told her, “you have been very successful as an account executive and it doesn’t seem as if you love your job that you should consider, you know, going back to something that you love.”
When Harris refused, the lawsuit says the supervisor’s “negative treatment escalated.”
Harris complained to human resources that she believed she was receiving the treatment because of her race. The department said it would investigate, but instead, Harris said she was written up for poor performance afterward.
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“In June is when they followed up with their results of the investigation, and then, 23 days later, I’m given a letter of counseling and within my 12-year career, I’ve never been written up, so to me that was blatant retaliation,” Harris said.
Harris was terminated in Jan. 2020. She brought a lawsuit against the company and hired the Sanford Firm, which specializes in civil rights, to represent her. Led by father and daughter duo Brian Sanford and Elizabeth “B.B.” Sanford, the law firm felt Harris had a clear case.
“The goal of H.R. in a racial discrimination complaint, a retaliation report, should be to do a fair investigation and keep the employee safe, during, after and before the investigation and when those systems break down as they did in FedEx, huge problems happen,” B.B. Sanford told ABS.
The jury agreed and awarded Harris $366 million in damages. FedEx said it plans to appeal.
“We strongly disagree with the verdict and will appeal. FedEx does not engage in or tolerate retaliation,” the company said in a statement. “We followed our protocols for performance management with Mr. Harris and are confident that we acted properly regarding her termination.”
Harris is glad she decided to stand up for herself. “I think it’s critical that anyone fight for themselves and for the company to do the right thing.”
She also encouraged others to take copious notes when dealing with racial discrimination or other situations at their respective workplaces.
“I would just urge people to stand firm, making sure they document instances that happen because it’s extremely difficult to share evidence when it’s your word versus theirs,” Harris advised.
Scholar and speaker Dr. Rashad Richey applauded Harris’ bravery during his “Indisputable” news broadcast on YouTube.
“Sometimes statutory law will not remedy workplace issues like discrimination. We can have all the laws in the world. We can have great policies. FedEx actually does have good policies on paper but when culture is adversarial to the policy culture wins every day,” Richey said. “And in order to enforce a policy, sometimes you have to take that company to court.”
“She stood up, did what was right and now because she stood up to the racism of these FedEx workers, the policy and the culture are now much more aligned than they were before,” Richey continued. “Sometimes it takes leadership like this in order to create avenues for other people.”
According to her LinkedIn profile, Harris is now a pharmacy sales consultant at McKesson.