An Oregon woman has been awarded $1 million over an incident where a gas station employee told her "I don't serve Black people."
According to the Associated Press, a Multnomah County jury ordered Rose Wakefield, 63, to receive $1 million in damages, including punitive damages of $550,000 following the 2020 incident at Jacksons Food Store's gas station.
Wakefield was stopping for gas on March 12, 2020, when she was ignored by attendant Nigel Powers, her lawyer, Gregory Kafoury said. When she asked for assistance, Powers allegedly said “I’ll get to you when I feel like it.”
Attendants are required to pump vehicles at gas stations in Oregon's larger population centers.
Wakefield proceeded to ask for help inside the store, surveillance video shows. An employee followed her back outside and pumped her gas.
However, as she was leaving, Powers said "I don't serve Black people," when Wakefield asked why he declined to help her at the pump.
“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.”
Wakefield complained to managers the following week, but her concerns were disregarded, her lawyer said. According to Kafoury, Powers was only fired a month later due to several write-ups for talking on his cell phone.
“Ms. Wakefield originally was just going to let this go,” Kafoury said. “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.’ ”
Jacksons Food Stores released a statement on Thursday (January 26) saying the company has a zero-tolerance policy against discrimination, but it disagrees with the jury's ruling because “our knowledge does not align with the verdict.”
“After carefully reviewing all facts and evidence, including 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,” the statement said.
Kafoury said Powers wasn't questioned about his racist comments and was only disciplined for "failing to serve customers in the order of their arrival," per AP.
According to AP, Powers didn't respond to requests for comment.
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