Saks Fifth Avenue Pays $9.3M To Ex-Worker For Racial Discrimination

Saks Fifth Avenue Pays $9.3M To Ex-Worker For Racial Discrimination

An Ohio jury awarded $9.3 million in damages to a Black former Saks Fifth Avenue worker who claimed that racial discrimination led to her termination in 2019.

Elizabeth Cook argued that her managers at the store, located at Columbus, Ohio’s Polaris Fashion Place, treated her unjustly and unfairly compared with her non-Black coworkers, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Cook’s lawsuit alleged that she was eventually terminated for violating a policy that had not been put into effect at the time of her firing. An eight-member jury agreed with her claims and awarded Cook $2.3 million for past and future lost wages as well as an additional $7 million in punitive damages.

Though Saks Fifth Avenue has denied any wrongdoing, the magistrate judge Elizabeta Saken felt the company’s crimes fit Cook’s asking amount.

“We do not tolerate employees violating our policies, and reserve the right to hold them accountable in all instances, including through termination,” the retailer said via a statement. “Our position remains that there was no discrimination or retaliation involved in this situation. We are disappointed in the jury’s decision and plan to appeal the outcome.”

Still, Cook’s documented instances of discriminatory punishment handed down by her superiors seemed to paint a completely different tale, one that has haunted her.

“This process helped restore the dignity I lost five years ago when I was unlawfully terminated by Saks Fifth Avenue,” she said in a statement through her lawyer. “While I can understand that rogue managers and bad employees can lead to bad outcomes like mine, I still cannot fathom how Saks’s internal racial discrimination complaint process completely failed.”

According to her lawsuit, during her time at the retail store, Cooks was one of the top sales associates; therefore, her unjust treatment was not related to her ability to perform her duties.

“During Plaintiff’s tenure at Saks, she was forced to endure a pervasive pattern of discrimination and retaliation by defendants,” the lawsuit said. “Although they were each committed to maintaining Saks’ reputation as a luxury retailer by providing stellar customer service, her managers deliberately targeted her because of her race.”

The lawsuit also alleged regular racial profiling of Black shoppers.