By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – A U.S. judge rejected FedEx Corp’s request to throw out or reduce a jury’s $366 million damages award to a Black former employee who said the package delivery company fired her after she complained about racial discrimination.
FedEx appealed the final judgment entered on Thursday by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt in Houston in favor of the plaintiff Jennifer Harris, who spent more than 12 years at FedEx before her January 2020 termination.
Harris said she had been a “rising star” who FedEx promoted six times and made a district manager, before her white supervisor asked her in March 2019 to take a demotion.
The plaintiff said she reported discrimination three days later, prompting the supervisor to complain about her work and issue a written warning, and culminating in her firing after a “sham” investigation.
Jurors on Oct. 25 awarded Harris $1.16 million in compensatory damages and $365 million in punitive damages.
In seeking to overturn the verdict, FedEx said Harris did not substantiate her claims, and was fired because of her “unsatisfactory performance over a period of many months.”
FedEx also said punitive damages should not have exceeded the compensatory damages awarded.
The Memphis, Tennessee-based company has said it believed insurance would cover up to $75 million of any payout, subject to a $10 million retention.
FedEx appealed the judgment to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
“We remain confident that we acted properly regarding Ms. Harris’ termination,” FedEx said in a statement on Friday.
Harris’ lawyer was not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)