A Michigan couple is feeling vindicated after being awarded a whopping $11.3 million verdict in their racial discrimination suit against the state’s Department of Corrections.
After a six-week trial, a jury on Monday ruled in favor of probation officer Lisa Griffey, who said she was subjected to racial harassment and bullying by her co-workers on a daily basis, including one instance where she was referred to as “mammy,” FOX 2 Detroit reported.
“My supervisor, when going around asking what people want for lunch, asked me did I want chitterlings on my pizza,” she recalled of a separate incident.
Griffey said her problems only got worse after she complaineds about the harassment to her higher-ups, who sat on their hands. She and her lawyer would file a suit in 2017 detailing her toxic work environment, how she felt unwanted in her all-white office, and the time her colleagues left her alone with a dangerous probationer — which is against department policy.
“A high-level supervisor for the MDOC, I had 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,'” Griffey’s attorney, Jonathan Marko, told the station.
After MDOC officials caught wind of the lawsuit, it was revealed that high-ranking administrators in Lansing had sent a copy of the complaint to her husband’s boss in an attempt to get him fired. Her husband, Cedric, was a deputy warden at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer at the time.
“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.
A jury awarded the couple a monetary judgment Monday after finding that Griffey had been harassed and discriminated against because of her race. Jurors also determined that her husband suffered retaliation, and was ultimately forced to resign after his wife had spoken out against the harassment.
As reported by The Detroit News, Lisa Griffey 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.
MDOC may also be required to shell out an additional $1 million in attorney fees, according to the couple’s lawyer.
In a statement, the attorney general’s office expressed disbelief at the jury’s decision.
“We are extremely surprised and disappointed in this jury decision and its $11.3 million verdict,” it said. “We are reviewing our options with our client, but we fully expect to appeal.”
Watch more in the clip below.