A Texas federal jury found that FedEx fired a sales team leader in a case of retaliation and discrimination. Jennifer Harris was awarded $1.24 million in compensatory damages and $365 million in punitive damages. The award is the single largest discrimination judgment ever against FedEx.
Discrimination based on protected characteristics is illegal. Discrimination can include any other following:
Federal law protects these characteristics under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Some states have supplemented federal law with additional protected classifications.
Treatment Worsened After Complaining to HR
Harris, who is Black, had worked at FedEx for more than a dozen years when she was fired. The accomplished account executive routinely outperformed her peers and was twice named to the company’s prestigious President’s Club.
“I worked really hard, was extremely successful, I was moved and promoted six times and moved and promoted into leadership and held three leadership positions at the district sales manager level,” Harris said in a news report.
Her termination came after complaining to human resources about comments made to her by a supervisor, to whom she began reporting in 2017.
The supervisor told Harris that she didn’t seem like she “loved her job” and should consider “going back to something she loved.”
The supervisor suggested Harris leave her leadership role and return to her lower-level account manager position. When Harris refused, her supervisor issued a “Letter of Counseling” for unacceptable performance on June 26, 2019. The letter was issued without a documented discussion as required by FedEx policies. She had never been reprimanded in her FedEx career up to that point. Retaliation included removing some of her commissions.
Harris filed internal complaints with human resources and voiced her concerns about retaliation and discrimination to a vice president and senior vice president. A company investigation found her complaints unsubstantiated. She was terminated in January 2020.
She filed the racial discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against FedEx on May 20, 2021. While her sales fell .11% below the average, a white peer’s sales dropped nearly 10% but was not similarly disciplined.
Jury Award Sends Strong Message
The jury award sends a strong message to FedEx and other companies. The bulk of the award – punitive damages – is meant to punish the wrongdoing company and discourage similar conduct from other employers.
In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), FedEx stated it will appeal the verdict and seek a reduction of the award.
Harris encourages other wronged employees to stand up for their rights: “Figure out a way to at least give it your best shot to fight.”
Our Legal Team Combats Discrimination in the Workplace
At Shellist Lazarz Slobin, we fight for the rights of all employees to work in an environment free of discrimination. No matter the size or influence of the company, our legal team strives to hold employers accountable for their unlawful employment practices.