OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) A white woman who works at Langston University has won a racial discrimination case against the historically black college.
A federal jury deliberated for less than an hour Wednesday before awarding nearly $300,000 in damages to Debra Jenkins, who has worked at Langston since 1979.
``It's a great day,'' Jenkins said. ``It's been a long time coming.''
Jenkins, 45, began her battle with the university in 2000, when she says she was passed over for a promotion to payroll supervisor in favor of a black co-worker with less experience. When she complained of discrimination, she claimed university officials retaliated.
Jenkins said it felt good to be able to tell her story, but said she expects university officials to appeal.
``We've won this battle, but I'm not sure the fight's over,'' said Jenkins, who still works for the university.
Officials with the Board of Regents for Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges, which oversees the university, haven't decided on an appeal.
``We are still considering today's verdict while we determine our next steps,'' the regents' attorneys said in a statement Wednesday. ``Therefore, it is inappropriate for us to elaborate any further at this particular time.''
An attorney for Langston regents insisted Jenkins turned down the payroll job at the heart of her lawsuit and denied racism played any part in the hiring process at the university.
Jenkins said she talked to her supervisor after she missed out on the promotion to payroll supervisor, but her complaints of discrimination were dismissed.
Jenkins subsequently was asked to take on some of the payroll supervisor's duties but balked because of compensation issues, the lawsuit said.
University officials responded by giving her a poor performance evaluation, which Jenkins said was not reflective of her actual job performance, according to the lawsuit.
Jenkins filed a discrimination claim with the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission in July 2001 and was informed the next day that her employment contract with the university was being converted to a month-to-month contract, the lawsuit states. The other employees in her department, all of whom were black, received annual contracts.
She filed a second discrimination claim and exhausted other administrative options before filing a civil lawsuit in June 2004 in Oklahoma City federal court.