SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 2 –– A California jury awarded $121 million in punitive damages to black employees of Interstate Bakeries Corp. who said they were discriminated against by the maker of Wonder Bread, Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes.
“The verdict is beyond words,” plaintiffs’ attorney Angela Alioto said. “My clients suffered terribly, simply because they are African American. I think, however, IBC got the message loud and clear: Discrimination will not stand.”
Lawyers for Interstate expressed disappointment with the award and said they will appeal.
“We don’t think the evidence supports the verdict, and we believe there were substantial and extensive legal errors,” said attorney Kathleen Maylin.
On Monday, the San Francisco County Court jury awarded $11 million in compensatory damages to 21 San Francisco area employees of Kansas City, Mo.-based Interstate.
It also found that Interstate, the nation’s largest wholesale baking company, acted with malice toward 19 of the workers, clearing the way for them to receive punitive damages. Today’s award covered 17 of the original plaintiffs.
The lawsuit, filed by baking plant workers and drivers, alleged a hostile work environment, lack of promotion and hiring, and name-calling at Interstate’s San Francisco bakery and at distribution centers in San Jose and Oakland, Calif.
Among the lawsuit’s allegations were charges that black employees were denied the use of certain meeting rooms, denied days off on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and subjected to racial epithets.