A jury in Oregon has ordered Walmart to pay $4.4 million in damages to a Black man who filed a lawsuit saying he was racially profiled and harassed by an employee while shopping.

In a lawsuit filed against the retail giant last year, Michael Mangum alleges that he was followed around a Walmart in Wood Village, Ore., back in March 2020 by one of the store's asset protection associates.

"Mr. Mangum was not acting violently, did not seem drunk or high, and told the [911] operator, 'he just keeps checking me out,' " according to the criminal complaint.

Mangum, in the amended complaint obtained by NPR, says he was asked to leave once he confronted the security associate — identified in the complaint as Joe Williams. During the altercation, Williams threatened to call authorities if Mangum did not leave the store.

Mangum, who works as a counselor for at-risk youth in the Portland area, refused to leave.

Mangum's lawyer Greg Kafoury told NPR Walmart should use the verdict to assess its security practices and who is hired to carry out those duties.

"They don't have a role in their community. They don't care about the rights of their customers," he said.

Randy Hargrove, Walmart's senior director for national media relations told NPR in a statement, that the company believes the verdict is "excessive" and is "not supported by the evidence."

"We do not tolerate discrimination. We believe the verdict is excessive and is not supported by the evidence," Randy Hargrove said.

"Mr. Mangum was never stopped by Walmart's Asset Protection. He interfered with our associates as they were surveilling and then stopped confirmed shoplifters, and then refused to leave despite being asked to repeatedly by our staff and Multnomah County, Ore., deputies," he added.

Hargrove said the retail giant is reviewing its options, including post-trial motions.

Williams no longer works for Walmart, Hargrove said. The company did not go into detail as to why or when Williams left his position.

According to The Associated Press, the store and Walmart corporate officials kept Williams employed for several more months following the incident — eventually terminating him in July 2020 for "mishandling $35 of Walmart property."

Kafoury said the company's reaction over the lawsuit is disappointing, and it should have taken more responsibility for Williams.

"Walmart's response to this verdict shows that they have no policy — or at least no policy they're willing to enforce — to ensure the honesty and integrity of their loss prevention [associates]," Kafoury said. "They don't learn. They don't listen."

The retail giant has found itself facing similar accusations of racial discrimination from customers.

Last year, two Black men in Texas filed a lawsuit against Walmart alleging they were wrongfully accused of shoplifting when they tried to return a TV. The men, Dennis Stewart and Terence Richardson, are asking for a jury trial in addition to compensatory and punitive damages, according to NBC News.

Earlier this year, a Black man in Georgia also filed a lawsuit after being handcuffed and accused of shoplifting by a loss prevention officer at a Walmart in Fayetteville, according to The Washington Post.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

300x250 Ad

300x250 Ad

Support quality journalism, like the story above, with your gift right now.