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Seven warehouse workers have been awarded nearly $15 million by a federal jury after their bosses segregated workers by race and called black employees 'lazy, stupid Africans'.
Among the plaintiffs was a white whistleblower who lost his job shortly after complaining about the racist treatment at Matheson Trucking and Matheson Flight Extenders Inc., according to the lawsuit.
The verdict in Denver, Colorado on Wednesday includes $13 million in punitive damages, $318,000 in back pay for workers who were fired for being black, and another $650,000 for emotional distress, the Denver Post reported.
Matheson, a company based in Sacramento, California that transports mail for the U.S. Postal Service and private companies, such as FedEx, also was ordered to pay the workers' legal costs.
Lawsuit: Mahamet Camara, left, and Macire Diarra, right, were among seven warehouse workers who were awarded $15 million by a jury after their employers discriminated against them for being black
According to the lawsuit, black employees worked on one side of the Commerce City warehouse and whites worked on the other side.
White staff were accused of using racial epithets and calling employees 'lazy, stupid Africans', and on one occasion, an employee yelled that all black people should be shot - and used the 'n' word.
The workers added that the treatment became much worse after 2007, when Leslie Capra became the station manager and was 'more openly hostile towards black employees' - and encouraged others to act in the same way, according to the lawsuit.
Six of the plaintiffs were black - many were from the African country of Mali and one was from Brazil - and one plaintiff was a white whistleblower who was fired for challenging the company's practices.
After complaining, he said he was branded 'the tribe's assistant', by bosses, the lawsuit said.
'Basically, I did the right thing. This isn't 1960 anymore,' said the white employee, Dean Patricelli.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in 2010, workers were discriminated against in all phases of employment, including hiring, termination, conditions of employment, promotion, vacation pay, furlough, discipline, work shifts, benefits and wages.
Workplace: Attorneys for Matheson Trucking and Matheson Flight Extenders Inc., which transports mail for the U.S. Postal Service and private companies, such as FedEx, said they will appeal the jury's decision
Accused: The lawsuit said the treatment became more commonplace when Leslie Capra, pictured, became the station manager in 2007. She was 'openly hostile' to black employees, according to the lawsuit
For example, all employees liked working holidays because they would get double pay. But supervisors gave the shifts only to white employees, including those with less seniority than their black counterparts.
'I thought I was back South again with the same old racist attitudes,' said plaintiff Ernie Duke.
But Matheson attorney Stacey Campbell said the company 'prides itself on hiring and employing a highly diverse workforce consisting of men and women of different races and cultures.'
She said Matheson would appeal the jury's decision.
The plaintiffs, who were part-time workers, were Patricelli, Duke, Mahamet Camara, Andre De Oliveira, Bemba Diallo, Salif Diallo and Macire Diarra.