A federal jury in Portland recently awarded $19 million to four African-American former employees of Asbury Automotive Group, LLC ? the former corporate owner of Thomason Toyota in Gladstone. The workers alleged they were forced to endure a hostile, racially charged work environment.
Four salesmen, Carlos Barfield, Marcus Arnold, Jahaeel Hardy, and Kent Paul, sued Asbury Automotive in 2006. They alleged that managers and other workers at the dealership created a racially hostile atmosphere and that management failed to take action to remedy the situation. According to the four men, managers and coworkers used highly offensive and hostile language in their presence, including terms such as “redneck,” “nigger,” “black slave,” and “half black bastard.”
The employees claimed that as a result of discrimination, they lost car deals and were overlooked for promotions. They presented evidence that supervisors overheard or participated in the discriminatory remarks and that complaints to management about the comments were ignored.
The jury found in favor of the employees, awarding $1.9 to $2.1 million for emotional distress to each of the four men. After hearing all the evidence, the jury found that the employer’s conduct was so egregious that the men were entitled to an additional $2.75 million each for punitive damages. Paul v. Asbury Automotive Group, Inc., Case No. CV06-1603-KI (D. Or., 2008).