Victim of Racial Discrimination Awarded $123K in Zales Lawsuit

December 12, 2012

A woman from Portland, Maine who claimed she was discriminated against at Zales Delaware, Inc. because of her race has been awarded more than $120,000, the Portland Press Herald reported. 

In March 2010, RyiSHisa Morris, who is African-American and Native American, tried to return an item to Piercing Pagoda, a subsidiary of the jewelry corporation Zales. The retail clerk denied her request and told her, "I've had enough with your kind," according to the lawsuit.

Still in the store, Morris called customer service, and the clerk “yelled and swore at the plaintiff,” Justice Nancy Mills of the Cumberland County Superior Court wrote in her May 17 ruling. Meanwhile, the store clerk called for mall security, and Morris was surrounded by three security officers, states the complaint filed on December 29, 2011.

Morris' attorney, Kelly Hoffman of the firm Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, took her case to the Maine Human Rights Commission, which concluded Morris had been the victim of illegal discrimination. The maximum damage fee allowed under Maine law is $100,000. Justice Mills ordered the company to pay the highest penalty amount, plus legal fees and interest for a total of $123,347. According to Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, the company paid the award in full on December 10.

"Those who discriminate need to learn the impact their actions have on victims and society, not only for the sake of justice, but also because doing so will result in more tolerance in the future," Hoffman said in a written statement. "I'm so impressed by individuals like Ms. Morris who find the courage to speak up when subjected to this type of behavior."

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