An Oregon woman successfully sued a local gas station after she was denied service.
Rose Wakefield was awarded $1 million on Monday, Jan. 23, by a Multnomah County jury in Oregon after she was racially discriminated against by a gas station clerk in 2020.
“I feel vindicated,” said Wakefield to KATU News. “There’s really no amount of money to accept that type of behavior from anyone. But the million dollars, it sends a message.”
According to the lawsuit filed in October 2020 with Multnomah Circuit Court, Wakefield stopped by Jacksons Food Store and a gas station clerk, Nigel Powers, repeatedly ignored her requests for service while continuously pumping gas for white customers who arrived after her. She then went into the store and received help from another clerk on duty.
Wakefield confronted Powers before leaving the store and told him that he is wrong for treating her that way. She said Powers responded by saying, “I don’t serve blacks.”
Wakefield complained to the company about the incident. A district manager responded to her in a letter and told her that the store didn’t have audio of the interaction.
Wakefield initially requested to be paid $350,000, but in September 2022, she went up on the amount of her request — to $850,000. She wanted $350,000 for racial discrimination and humiliation. She saw the additional $500,000 as a way to deter this type of treatment toward Black people in the future.
The jury awarded Wakefield $450,000 for discrimination along with $220,000 from Pacwest Energy and $330,000 form Jacksons Food Stores Inc.
Greg and Jason Kafoury of Kafoury & McDougal Law Firm in Portland, Wakefield’s attorneys, argued that the complaints weren’t recorded. Instead, a call taker wrote a single brief paragraph summarizing what Wakefield said and removed the most important statement about the accusation.
They also stated the company piled Powers with cellphone usage complaints to fire him after the alleged incident.
“They wrote him up four times for talking on his cellphone on the job. In the year and a half there, he had never been accused of that. But all of a sudden, four times in 30 days. And then they fired him after they papered the file. This shows that they knew that he had done exactly what Rose Wakefield had accused him of,” Kafoury said.
Cory Jackson, president of Jackson Food Stores, responded with the following statement to KATU News after the decision:
“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. As such, we respectfully disagree with the jury’s ruling because our knowledge does not align with the verdict. We have a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind. We serve everyone; this is core to our people mission and our policies and something we are committed to acting upon every day.”