A federal district court jury in Denver last week leveled a $15 million verdict against Matheson Trucking and Matheson Flight Extenders Inc., a Sacramento-based company with employees in Denver, on charges of race-based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Six Black employees—four of whom are from Africa—brought the claims, while a lone White employee alleged retaliation for supporting the claims of his co-workers. Camara v. Matheson Trucking, Inc. (D. Colo. 2015).
Allegations included making Black employees work on one side of the warehouse, using racial epithets such as the “n-word,” giving enhanced-pay opportunities for working holidays only to White employees, and permitting openly hostile conduct toward Black employees. After a two-week trial, the jury awarded $2 million in punitive damages for each of the seven plaintiffs, plus compensatory damages and back pay totaling an additional $969,000.
Attorney Stacey Campbell says the company plans to appeal. “(Matheson) prides itself on hiring and employing a highly diverse workforce consisting of men and women of different races and cultures,” Campbell said in a statement to the Denver Post last week.
Mark Matheson, the company’s chief executive officer, maintains that the company is committed to following civil rights laws. This case highlights the importance of regular harassment training and ensuring that employees have avenues for complaining about misconduct.