Jury Awards $11M To Bread Workers

Tuesday, August 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A jury decided Monday that the nation's largest wholesale baker discriminated against 21 black workers and awarded them $11 million in damages.

Interstate Bakeries Corp., the Kansas City, Mo.-based company that produces Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Home Pride and Hostess Cupcakes, said it would appeal the verdict reached by a San Francisco County jury.

``We are disappointed with today's verdicts. This was a long and complex trial with many witnesses and many hours of testimony,'' company lawyer Kathleen Maylin said Monday.

Some of the workers hugged and kissed each other after a court clerk read the decisions.

The plaintiffs, all workers at one San Francisco plant, claimed they were denied promotions, subjected to racist comments and given the worst shifts.

Theodis Carroll Jr., 34, a former machine operator, says co-workers called him ``boy'' and a common racial epithet. A jury awarded him $155,000.

Charles Wright, a 52-year-old former deliveryman who was awarded $700,000, said white workers were allowed to take days off to see the San Francisco Giants.

``When I asked for Martin Luther King Day off, I was denied,'' he said.

Howard Jones Jr., a former route salesman, was awarded $1 million. He was put on light duty after being hit by a drunken driver, but the company demanded that he sweep the parking lot, he said.

``I refused. I was treated like I was at the bottom,'' he said.

The jury also found that the company acted with malice and oppression toward 19 of the plaintiffs. For them, the trial will continue as they will ask the jury to award punitive damages.

The bakery also said it would ask the judge to reduce the damages because some of the allegations, which date back more than 30 years, occurred when Ralston Purina owned the plant, Maylin said. Also, she said, the award should be lowered because the allegations were not filed in a timely manner.