VERDICT: Jury Awards $274,000 to Former FDOT Road Crew Employee

 TALLAHASSEE, FL – Nov. 8.  A federal jury just awarded $274,000 to my client, former Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) road crew worker James Dawson, based on evidence that his race was a motivating factor in the firing.  The jury deliberated for five hours and announced at 8:50 PM ET that they had reached a verdict.  The photo above was taken immediately after the verdict, and shows me with Mr. Dawson and my two paralegals, whose help during the trial was invaluable.

At its heart it was a case about race relations in the workplace.  As best I can tell, FDOT’s Midway office still thinks it’s 1950.  It apparently hasn’t heard there are civil rights laws and that it’s illegal to treat people differently because of race. The twelve men and women on the jury sent a powerful message that it’s time to join us in 2017.

Dawson alleged he was held to a different standard than a white male who held the same position.  Dawson, a crew supervisor, was blamed for nearly everything that happened, not only on the crews he worked with but even on crews the white male supervised.  And after he spoke up about race discrimination, his managers went to his coworkers and had them write negative statements about him.  Dawson had no idea this was happening and never saw the statements.  FDOT then used the bogus statements to suspend and then immediately fire him.  It wasn’t until I filed this lawsuit that we learned about the secret investigation and derogatory statements.  If FDOT had only shown the statements to Dawson he could have easily disproved the accusations, using DOT’s own records.

The jury heard many examples of mistreatment of black employees.  That included:

  • A situation where a truckful of white FDOT employees refused to let a black employee ride with them for critical work-related training;
  • A situation where a black employee was ordered to get down in a ditch and shovel dirt, a task that should have been assigned to work-release prisoners that were normally used for such task;
  • An occasion where a white employee under Mr. Dawson, apparently unafraid of being disciplined by FDOT, walked up to Mr. Dawson and told Dawson to “Get the f**k off my job.” FDOT management did nothing.
  • A situation where a black employee tried to complain to a manager about being shouted down by his white manager, only to have the manager slam her door in his face.
  • Situations where white employees damaged or destroyed costly vehicles and equipment without any discipline whatsoever, compared to black employees who were disciplined for minor offenses.
  • The history of race discrimination at the Midway office, where two prior race discrimination lawsuits had been filed, and which apparently did nothing to change the environment.

Mr. Dawson, who is now 49, began working for FDOT when he was 22.  He was just six years from retirement at the time of his firing.  He has now recovered and moved on, and the jury’s verdict restored all his lost wages ($84,000), added another $190,000 on top of that for pain and suffering, and restored his faith in the system.

It also sent a powerful message to FDOT: Stop the racial harassment in your Midway office.


Jim Garrity

Florida & Georgia Employee Rights Lawyer

Categories: Race Discrimination, Race Discrimination, Retaliation

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