Bartender Awarded $687K for Illegal Firing; Evidence Owner Favored Hiring Whites Only

Want to start a national conversation on race in the workplace? Then maybe the place to begin is with the Redline bar in Washington, D.C.

That’s where, according to a federal jury, the owner illegal discriminated against a former employee because she is African American, supposedly refusing to shake her hand or speak with her and firing her within an hour of her hiring.

For that violation of the law, the jury awarded Briggitta Hardin $687,000 under federal and D.C. anti-discrimination laws.

The jury’s award broke down to $175,000 in compensatory damages, $510,000 in punitive damages under Title VII, and $2,000 in punitive damages under the District’s Human Rights Act.

But this apparently wasn’t just an isolated incident at this particular workplace.

Several white ex-employees testified during trial about the absence of black bartenders and the owner’s racially charged hiring preferences. “Witnesses testified at trial that he wanted to hire white blonde chicks or girls, as bartenders,” according to Hardin’s attorney.

The defense presented a rosier picture of race relations at the establishment, calling as witnesses two African American patrons and friends to testify about the demographics of Redline’s patrons and employees and the owner’s treatment of black and other minority customers.

But the evidence on the whole on which the jury found liability paints a disturbing picture of this particular workplace-and should trigger soul searching on race relations in the workplace.

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