A jury verdict for $366 million is very rare. It is especially rare for a single plaintiff case. It is even more rare in federal district court. Yet, that is exactly what happened in Harris v. Fedex, No. 21-CV-01651 (S.D. Tex.). Jennifer Harris sued Fedex for discrimination and for retaliation after she complained about discrimination. Harris, African-American, sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1981. There is no cap under Sec. 1981.
Ms. Harris was a rising star for Fedex, with several company awards. In 2019, her supervisor asked her to accept a demotion. Harris complained to Human Resources and said this was discriminatory. She was then disciplined three months later. She had no negative performance evaluations or written discipline prior to her first complaint of discrimination. Harris’ supervisor then started to sabotage Harris’ commission structure, even though her performance remained at a high level. Harris complained about discrimination again a few months later when her supervisor. Fedex conducted a meaningless investigation into her claims. The employer then fired Harris.
In October, 2022, Ms. Harris’ trial lasted seven days. The federal six-person jury deliberated for a day. It sent out a note saying it was deadlocked. The judge then urged them to continue. The jury then sent another note asking if they could assign some money to force the company to implement better systems to prevent discrimination. The judge replied, no. The jury ultimately awarded over $1 million in compensatory damages and $365 million in punitive damages. Fedex says it will appeal.
See Law360 article here. There are probably a few FedEx lawyers wishing they had settled this case.