Gas Station Ordered To Pay $1M To Woman Refused Service Because She’s Black

| How Africa News
Rose Wakefield


A Portland jury awarded $1 million to a woman who sued a gas station for racial discrimination after a former employee refused to serve her because he doesn’t “serve Black people.”

The March 2020 encounter took place at Jacksons Food Store in Beaverton, according to The Oregonian. Rose Wakefield, the plaintiff, had gone to the gas station to fill up her car. And, despite arriving at the station before other drivers, she discovered the attendant had left her unattended and was instead serving customers who had come to meet her.

When the 63-year-old Black woman asked the attendant, Nigel Powers, to serve her, the White employee said, “I’ll get to you when I feel like it,” according to the lawsuit.

During the trial, surveillance footage from the time of the incident was shown. Wakefield can be seen in the video entering the gas station mart and conversing with the manager and another employee. The latter eventually left the mart and pumped gas into Wakefield’s car.

Wakefield asked Powers why he ignored her before leaving the station. According to the lawsuit, the 23-year-old responded by saying it was because of her skin color, and Powers also laughed.

“It was humiliating. I felt like a slave without chains,” Wakefield said after the jury’s decision on Monday. “The bottom line is I can’t take my skin off and lay it down on the couch. I’m going to be who I am.”

According to court documents, Wakefield contacted the company following the incident, according to The Oregonian. Wakefield’s attorney, Greg Kafoury, claims the company did not save the phone call. The attorney also stated that the company summarized the conversation in an attempt to minimize the racist encounter.

Powers was issued a written warning following the incident. However, it was for violating the company’s “first in, first out” service policy, according to company records made available by Kafoury. Powers was fired a month later, according to Kafoury, for being on his phone while on duty. During pre-trial negotiations, Kafoury also stated that the company attempted to settle the lawsuit by offering the plaintiff $12,000 in settlement.

Jackson Food Store President Cory Jackson responded to the verdict in a statement, saying the company has a “zero-tolerance policy for discrimination,” adding that they “provide multiple trainings to our employees — the lifeblood of our company — throughout the year so they can best serve all of our customers with dignity and respect,” according to KGW.

“We chose to take this matter to trial after carefully reviewing all facts and evidence, including video surveillance, because we were comfortable with our knowledge of the facts of the case,” Jackson said. “As a result, we respectfully disagree with the jury’s decision because our knowledge contradicts the verdict.”

Wakefield’s encounter with Powers isn’t the first time she’s had a similar experience, as she spent her childhood in Northeast Portland in the 1970s. Because of a one-way desegregation program that disadvantaged Black students, she had to take a bus to Jackson High School.

“If something like this happens to you, don’t let it slide, that’s my message,” she said. “Because somebody else will have to suffer for what you didn’t take care of.”


Written by How Africa News

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