A jury in the Southern District of New York awarded a $2.35 million settlement to Claude Lewis, a former employee at the company’s Yonkers factory for nearly three decades. The win comes seven weeks after Rosanna Mayo-Coleman received her judgment against American Sugar Refining after her boss allegedly sexually harassed her at work.
in 2011, Lewis came under the supervision of Mehandra Ramphal, a Guyanese national origin. According to lawyers representing him, “Ramphal soon began communicating his preference for Guyanese workers above other workers, especially African-American workers, by routinely stating that ‘only Guyanese people know how to make sugar,’ and ‘Guyanese people have sugar making in their DNA.’”
Officials said that “Ramphal complained to Lewis - who is African- American - ‘you people ask too many questions’ and ‘you people are stupid.’ Mr. Lewis began seeing that Mr. Ramphal was unfairly distributing overtime – an essential component of Lewis’ compensation – to other Guyanese employees, and not to Lewis, and Lewis was further subjected to screaming, cursing, and harassment.”
Lewis ultimately took a pay cut to transfer from Ramphal’s supervision, though the alleged workplace discrimination continued, the jury determined.
“It takes a lot of courage to stand up to your employer and say, ‘you are breaking the law, you are violating my rights, and I am not going to accept it,’ attorney Megan Goddard, who represented Lewis, said in a statement. “Claude Lewis had the courage to do that, and in doing so he stood up for himself and workers everywhere. The jury made it clear-race and national origin discrimination will not be tolerated, and neither will retaliation. I hope that this verdict inspires employees to stand up for themselves.”
“Employers are on notice – do something about workplace discrimination or face enormous penalties. This jury has delivered a loud message to Domino’s Sugar, and to all employers, that juries will not tolerate workplace discrimination and retaliation,” Nathaniel Charny, who also represented Lewis, added. “Mr. Lewis had the fortitude to stand by his principles, and this jury vindicated his efforts.”
Peter O’Malley, the Vice President of Corporate Relations, American Sugar Refining, Inc. said that his company plans to appeal the decision in a statement.
“We disagree with this verdict and plan to appeal. We are committed to ensuring a culture of respect for all of our employees and, over the past several months, we have been reviewing our HR policies and procedures to strengthen our employees’ awareness of and training on our Code of Conduct.”
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