Oregon woman nets $1 million after discrimination by gas station attendant

Rose Wakefield tried to get Nigel Powers' attention several times, but he kept dismissing her, so she went inside the station's store to ask for help, according to surveillance camera footage.

A jury awarded $1 million to a Portland, Oregon, woman who experienced racial discrimination from a gas station attendant who refused to fill up her vehicle because she was Black.

According to The Guardian, Rose Wakefield alleged that Washington County gas station employee Nigel Powers refused to service her because of her race when he continued passing her over to serve other customers, even those who arrived after her, in March of 2020. He allegedly even told her, “I don’t serve Black people,” and laughed.

“I was like, ‘What world am I living in?'” Wakefield recalled of the encounter at the Jacksons gas station, The Guardian reported. “This is not supposed to go down like that. It was a terrible, terrible confrontation between me and this guy.”

Oregon gas station
A Portland, Oregon, woman has been awarded $1 million in a racial discrimination lawsuit against a gas station attendant who allegedly told her, “I don’t serve Black people.” (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Wakefield tried to acquire Powers’ attention several times, but he kept dismissing her, so she went inside the store to ask for service, according to footage from a surveillance camera. Another station staffer came from inside to pump Wakefield’s gas for her.

Wakefield’s attorney, Gregory Kafoury, claimed she initially considered letting the incident go. She admitted to her friends that she couldn’t bear to think about it.

Kafoury claimed that after a while, his client understood she had to do something to prevent this from happening to anyone else.

The week following the incident, Wakefield made two attempts to complain to the managers, but officials at Jacksons Food Stores paid her little attention, the attorney maintained. Someone deleted a message she left for the regional manager, he said.

Jacksons Food Stores — who was sued by Wakefield, as was PacWest Energy — said in a statement that it disagreed with the jury’s decision because it felt that its “knowledge does not align with the verdict” after carefully analyzing all the evidence.

The $1 million also included a $550,000 punitive damage fee.

“It’s a system not designed to find the truth, but a system designed to control information and to minimize a complaint and complaint as serious as this one,” Kafoury said, KGW News reported. “They tried to boil it down to she wasn’t served in the order in which she arrived. It is pretty cynical, and it’s pretty ugly.”

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