A member of the Penobscot Indian Nation has been awarded $40,000 in damages in his lawsuit against Day’s Jewelers over demeaning remarks the owners made about his heritage.
Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy found last month that Day’s Jewelers and its owners subjected Jason Brown of Bangor to “unwelcome harassment based on race,” following a jury-waived trial in October at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.
Brown worked for Day’s off and on between 2006 and 2013. When he left, Brown had been working in the marketing department in Waterville, according to court documents. He sued Day’s and owners Jeff and Kathy Corey in 2014 alleging he had been harassed based on his race.
“The incidents that constitute this racial harassment include a continuing course of comments couched in use of negative stereotypes such as being called ‘Big Indian,’ use of the term ‘squaw,’ and repeated reference to ‘Indians and firewater,’” Murphy wrote in her 10-page ruling.
She also found that Brown was negatively impacted by the Coreys’ use of the n-word.
“Mr. Brown testified credibly about being called a ‘prairie [n——-]’ or ‘canoe [n——-]’ while growing up on Indian Island and it was clear from his demeanor that he had been harmed by this terminology both as a child and while working at Day’s,” the judge wrote.
The Coreys either denied making the remarks or testified that they did not remember making many of them.
Portland attorney Stephen Langsdorf, who represented Day’s and the Coreys, said Monday that his clients were disappointed in the the decision and are considering appealing to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
“What I want people to understand is that I cared about Jeff and Kathy Corey and Day’s Jewelers,” said Brown, who now works as an independent jewelry designer. “I was made to feel like part of their family, but I was also continuously being ridiculed about my race.
“My hope is that Jeff and Kathy Corey now understand that discrimination in the workplace against Native Americans or any employee is unacceptable,” he continued in a statement issued by his attorney. “Trying to cancel out the damage that racist words and images can have on a person by saying it was ‘just a joke’ is unacceptable. I hope they have learned from their mistakes. And, I hope that the corporate culture at Day’s has changed for the better.”
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