A Genesee County jury awarded a Black couple, who sued the Michigan Department of Corrections after accusing their former employer of discrimination and retaliation, $11.3 million on Monday. The State of Michigan will more than likely appeal the decision.
An all-white six-member jury ruled in favor of Lisa and Cedric Griffey came to the resolution after a six-week trial that included an astounding 41 witnesses and 10 hours of deliberation. The Griffey’s claimed that Lisa Griffey was repeatedly subjected to racial harassment by white co-workers. She was reportedly called a “Mammy”, referred to “the Black one” in the office, asked if she wanted “chitlins on her pizza,” and she felt she was put in life-threatening conditions based on her race. Her husband, Cedric Griffey, was subjected to harassment because of his association with Lisa Griffey.
Mrs. Griffey said in an interview with Fox2 News in Detroit, “I was referred to as the ‘black one’. I was called ‘mammy’ one day when I came into the office one of my coworkers said, “Morning mammy,'” she said. “He had no idea that mammy was a racist term that’s derogatory towards black women.”
The Griffey’s attorney, Jonathan Marko, addressed the allegations and the behavior in their respective jobs saying, “During the trial, it was discovered that high-level administrators in Lansing sent a copy of Ms. Griffey’s lawsuit to her husband’s boss and the jury determined that this was done as part of a scheme to fire Cedric Griffey for his wife’s civil rights case and the media attention it received.”
“A high-level supervisor for the MDOC, I asked him what is an African American supposed to do if they are discriminated against in the MDOC? You know what he said to me? He said, ‘They should shut up and go back to work,'” continued Marko.
Cedric Griffey worked for the state’s correctional department as a deputy warden for 29 years and Lisa Griffey served for 19 years- initially in Lapeer and Genesee counties but now currently works in the Macomb County probation office.
The $11.3 million award will be divided between the two. Cedric Griffey was awarded $6.25 million. Lisa Griffey was awarded for $5.32 million. The money included damages, distress and past wages.
Kelly Rossman-McKinney, the spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, said in a statement that “we are extremely surprised and disappointed in this jury decision and its $11.3 million verdict. We are reviewing our options with our client but we fully expect to appeal.”