An all-white jury has awarded a black couple $11.3 million after a six-week racial assault trial in Michigan.
The couple, Lisa and Cedric Griffey, sued the Michigan Department of Corrections (MCOD) for workplace hostility and racial call outs.
Lisa was a probation officer and was racially harassed daily by her all-white co-workers.
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Her assaults led her to report the issue to a high-level supervisor, but it was met with more racial attacks.
In a Fox2 Detroit interview, Jonathan Marko Lisa’s attorney narrated part of Lisa’s ordeal with the supervisor.
He said: “A high-level supervisor for the MDOC, I asked him what is an African American supposed to do if they are discriminated against in the MDOC? You know what he said to me? He said, ‘They should shut up and go back to work.”
In another instance, she was referred to as “mammy”, a pejorative term for black women or the “black one”, making it obvious she didn’t look like them.
“I was referred to as the ‘black one’. I was called ‘mammy’. One day, when I came into the office, one of my co-workers said, “Morning mammy. He had no idea that mammy was a racist term that’s derogatory towards black women,” Lisa said to Fox2 Detroit.
These continuous taunts made Lisa file her lawsuit in 2017. Cedric, her husband, worked at Thumb correctional facility. He was inadvertently affected by his wife’s lawsuit and was under direct attack from his employees as well.
The trial revealed that in a bid to intimidate him at work, Lisa’s office sent copies of her lawsuit to Cedric’s boss to force their hand into firing him for the waves his wife’s lawsuit was causing in the media.
Lisa admits her presence at work was not a welcoming idea for many.
“I just believe that people were not happy that I was there, and they felt like they just, they would react however they wanted to,” she said.
The Attorney General’s office, which is the MDOC’s defendants, said there is room for a retrial. The office was in disbelief over the “huge sum” awarded by the Genesee County jury.
The jury ruled in the couple’s favour after a 10-hour investigation and 41 witnesses had taken the stand. The AG’s office rep said: “We are extremely surprised and disappointed in this jury decision and its $11.3 million verdict. We are reviewing our options with our client, but we fully expect to appeal,” Fox2 reported.
Mr and Mrs Griffey have finally been justified for filing the suit and this is the breakdown of their $11.4 million.
The Detroit News reports that Lisa received $5.1 million, which included $2.75 million for past emotional distress and $857,000 for future economic damages.
Cedric Griffey also received an award, getting $6.25 million for past emotional distress, future emotional distress and future economic damages. The MCOD could be asked to add an additional $1million to cover attorney fees.