FORT WORTH, Texas — A Fort Worth woman is using her win in a civil lawsuit with a historic judgment award to encourage others.
Jennifer Harris used to work for one of the world's shipping giants until things went sour.
She said she became the target of retaliation.
"I worked for FedEx for 12-and-a-half years," said Harris.
For close to 13 years, Harris climbed the FedEx corporate sales ladder. She even relocated several times as part of her promotions and sales success for the company, where she outperformed most people in her sales division.
During her career at FedEx, she won numerous company awards, including the top award more than once.
"People go their entire career and never accomplished President's Club," said Harris, "So being able to do that twice."
But, Harris said awards didn't stop workplace discrimination. She shared that it all started with comments from a supervisor that caught her off-guard.
"You have been very successful as an account executive and it doesn't seem as if you love your job that you should consider, you know, going back to something that you love," said Harris
Harris was born and raised in Fort Worth. Her father was a track coach, which led to her running track and playing sports. She is a proud graduate of Dunbar High School in Fort Worth. That's also where her family became friends with the family of Chris Nettles, who worked his way into community service by joining the Fort Worth City Council.
After learning about Harris' case at FedEx, Nettles and his family continued to support Harris, who eventually relocated back to Fort Worth to be closer to her attorneys.
"I think it's important that she tells her story and that people here in Fort Worth understand that it's possible to go up against major corporations or the system," said Nettles. "I was talking about going up against the system, being the agitator and tell them the truth. Her story is going to give people the opportunity to say, maybe I can do it too, because the reality is we are treated differently, and we communities of color have been treated far more different than others."
Eventually, Harris went away to college and after graduation, she started a sales career with FedEx. Harris entered the management program for the shipping giant and quickly excelled due to her outstanding performance. But, she said she still reportedly ran into constant retaliation at FedEx even after reporting some of the behavior from supervisors to human resources.
Harris eventually turned to a Dallas-based father-daughter attorney team for help.
Their lawsuit alleged that after filing a complaint with human resources the investigation was not handled properly and her treatment at work worsened.
As further retaliation, her employment was subsequently terminated.
"That hits you in the heart," attorney Brian Sanford said.
Civil rights attorney Sanford and his daughter, Elizabeth "BB" Sanford, took on an entire team of corporate FedEx attorneys.
Elizabeth Sanford did the opening arguments in the case. It was at that time that Harris solidified within herself that she definitely had a dream team to help argue her case.
"Jennifer doesn't get to say anything until she's on the stand. She just has to watch me and dad put on her case and she has to watch the FedEx attorneys try to rip her to shreds," said Elizabeth Sanford.
Brian Sanford said, "I think that's the beginning of when we started to win the case was opening argument. You could tell by body language with the jury that they were engaged and wow, if you can prove what you just said, we're with you."
After several days of testimony, the father-daughter duo convinced jurors to rule in their favor. The verdict came after two days of deliberations.
During deliberations, the jury asked if their decision had to be unanimous. Eventually, they ruled in Harris' favor.
The jury's $365 million judgment surprised them and the judge.
Brian Sanford said, "When the judge got to one of the big numbers, he took off his glasses and he looked down and they looked back up."
FedEx responded by saying "We strongly disagree with the verdict and will appeal. FedEx does not engage in or tolerate retaliation. We followed our protocols for performance management with Ms. Harris and are confident that we acted properly regarding her termination."
Now, just like Nettles, Harris encourages others in the same situation to stand up to injustices on the job.
Harris said, "Figure out a way to at least give it your best shot to fight."
"Understand the policy and the procedures of the organization. Understand what you can and cannot do so that when you get into a situation or when it gets father like Jennifer tells us that she just reports it one time," Nettles said. "But it's multiple times. And she was able to have that information ready to go when she goes to trial."
The appeal process by FedEx corporate attorneys could tie up the $365 million judgment against the shipping giant anywhere from two to four years.