Taco Bell Loses $3 Million Racial Discrimination Case
Oct. 11, 1996
PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) _ A federal jury has awarded more than $3 million to a white former employee who claimed he was fired for complaining that Taco Bell discriminated against black workers.
Michael Olmstead of Pensacola, a former assistant manager, was awarded $3 million in punitive damages, plus $10,000 in back pay and $45,000 for emotional distress.
Thursday's verdict, however, doesn't end the case. U.S. District Judge Lacey Collier asked lawyers to submit written arguments on several issues he is expected to resolve in the next few weeks, including a possible $300,000 cap on punitive damages.
The case is one of seven discrimination lawsuits filed against Taco Bell Corp. in Pensacola since 1993, but the only one by a white person. Olmstead also is the only plaintiff to win a clear-cut victory out of five cases resolved so far.
Taco Bell, a unit of PepsiCo Inc., has won two cases and two others were dismissed, although one involved an undisclosed settlement.
Black plaintiffs have accused the company of passing them over for promotion, giving them the worst jobs, lower pay and harsher discipline than other workers. They also contended they were subjected to racial epithets.
Olmstead claimed he was fired after complaining about unfair treatment of black workers. He had satisfactory performance reviews and received regular pay raises prior to his complaint.
Taco Bell officials said he was fired for substandard performance including falsifying hours worked.