Black Woman Awarded $1 Million After Oregon Gas Station Attendant Reportedly Said, ‘I Don't Serve Black People’
A Black woman was refused service at a gas station in Portland, Oregon. She fought back and now a jury has awarded her $1 million in damages.
According to CBS News, on March 12, 2020, Rose Wakefield, 63, stopped for gas at Jacksons Food Store in Beaverton, Oregon, which is right outside of Portland. The lawsuit, which named PacWest Energy and Jacksons Food Stores as the defendants, stated that an attendant named Nigel Powers refused to pump her gas. In Oregon, drivers are not allowed to pump their gas. When Wakefield asked for help, she claims Powers said, "I'll get to you when I feel like it.”
Wakefield then entered the gas station to ask for assistance. A different employee agreed to help but when leaving the station she asked Powers why he did not help her, according to Wakefield, he replied, “I don't serve Black people."
Wakefield said throughout the week she called the gas station and complained twice to his managers but nothing was done. Her lawyer, Gregory Kafoury, said a message for the regional manager was erased and that the defendants were intentionally concealing evidence. Kafury said the defendants argued it wasn’t racial discrimination but “she wasn't served in the order in which she arrived.” Powers was terminated the next month, not for his treatment of Wakefield, but for repeatedly talking on his cell phone.
After a four-day civil trial last week, a jury ruled that Wakefield was racially discriminated against. She was awarded $1 million in damages.
"I went to a gas station to get gas and service, and I wasn't served. I was actually humiliated and disrespected… I was like, 'What world am I living in?' This is not supposed to go down like that,” Wakefield told local station KGW, “ It was a terrible, terrible confrontation between me and this guy.
"I didn't want this to happen to anyone else. It was a terrible scene, and no one should have to go through nothing like that," she added.
The president of Jacksons Food Stores said in a statement, “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.”
PacWest Energy did not respond to a request for comment, according to KGW.