A federal jury in Texas has awarded $1.24 million in compensatory damages and $365 million in punitive damages to a former FedEx employee. Jennifer Harris, a black woman, had worked for FedEx for over a decade and had received multiple promotions and awards. In her most recent position, she led a sales team, and her performance was measured by the team’s production. However, in 2017, when she began reporting to a new supervisor, her performance was criticized and she was eventually terminated after rejecting a suggestion to take a demotion. During this time, Harris filed several internal complaints of discrimination, which were investigated and found to be unsubstantiated. She then sued FedEx under federal law, claiming race discrimination and retaliation.
In denying summary judgment for FedEx, the court acknowledged that Harris did not fully meet her sales goals, but pointed out that at least one of her white peers did so too, and was not similarly disciplined. The court also held that because Harris’s termination was based solely on her failure to meet revenue goals when others in similar positions who did not meet their goals were not terminated, this promoted the inference that race could have been a factor. The case went to a jury trial, and the jury took only two days to determine that Harris suffered retaliation and awarded her $1.24 million in compensatory damages and $365 million in punitive damages for “any reprehensible conduct” of FedEx. The company intends to appeal the verdict.