Jury Awards $1M To Woman Denied Service Because She's Black

Jury Awards $1M To Portland Woman Who Was Denied Service And Told ‘I Don’t Serve Black People’

A Portland woman is up $1 million after an unfortunate incident of racial discrimination against her. Rose Wakefield, 63, sued Jacksons Food Store after one of their gas station attendants told her, “I don’t serve Black people,” when she questioned why he ignored her requests for help at the pump.

The incident happened on March 12, 2020, when Wakefield visited the station in Beaverton. The attendant, Nigel Powers, ignored the 63-year-old’s requests for gas and instead serviced other drivers, per ABC News. 

Wakefield’s lawyer, Gregory Kafoury, said Powers told his client, “I’ll get to you when I feel like it” when she asked for assistance.

Laws in Portland, Oregon, including its suburb Beaverton, require attendants to pump gas for customers. When Powers refused to help her, Rose went inside the station to ask for help. Another employee followed her outside to assist, per surveillance footage. As she was leaving, Rose asked Powers why he ignored her requests. That’s when he revealed his racial bias.

Rose told KGW8 that she felt “humiliated and disrespected” by Powers’ actions and words. Her lawyer Kafoury said:

“Ms. Wakefield originally was just going to let this go. She told 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.”

Rose Wakefield Complained To Gas Station Management Before Filing Lawsuit

Within the week of the incident, Rose complained twice to managers, per ABC News, but her lawyer says her phone calls were dead ends. One of her calls was reportedly not recorded, and her message for the regional manager was erased.

“It’s a system not designed to find the truth, but a system designed to control information and to minimize a complaint and complaint as serious as this one. They tried to boil it down to she wasn’t served in the order in which she arrived. It is pretty cynical, and it’s pretty ugly,” Rose’s lawyer said.

About a month later, Powers was fired, but it wasn’t for his discriminatory actions against Rose. Instead, corporate paperwork shows Powers had received several write-ups for talking on his cell phone during work hours.

Additionally, Rose’s lawyer said the company never questioned Nigel Powers about the racist comment–but was only disciplined for failing to serve customers in order of arrival.

Rather than settle the discrimination lawsuit, Jacksons Food Store went to trial. They released a statement on Thursday following the ruling by a Multnomah County jury. The civil trial lasted four days.

Jackson Food Store said they have a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind. However, they disagreed with the jury’s ruling, which also included $550,000 for punitive damages.

From Jacksons Food Store’s statement:

“After carefully reviewing all facts and evidence, include video surveillance, we chose to take this matter to trial because we were comfortable based on our knowledge that the service-related concern actually reported by the customer was investigated and promptly addressed.”


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