Couple wins $11M racial discrimination lawsuit against MDOC

A judge ruled in favor of a couple who sued the Michigan Department of Corrections in an $11 million racial discrimination lawsuit.

Lisa Griffey worked as probation officer in Lapeer County while her husband was a deputy warden at a prison. After a six-week trial, testimony from 41 witnesses and 10 hours of deliberations, they're feeling vindicated.

"I was referred to as the 'black one'. I was called 'mammy' one day when I came into the office one of my coworkers said, "Morning mammy,'" she said.  "He had no idea that mammy was a racist term that's derogatory towards black women."

Although Griffey's complaints to her higher ups about racism fell on deaf ears, a Genesee County circuit court gave her a fair hearing. An all-white jury awarded Lisa and her husband Cedric $11.3 million Monday in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Michigan Department Of Corrections. 

"My supervisor, when going around asking what people want for lunch, asked me did I want chitterlings on my pizza," she said.

Lisa and her lawyer Jonathan Marko told FOX 2 about her work conditions when they first filed the suit two and half years ago, how she was harrassed on a daily basis, how she was not wanted in her all-white office  and how her co-workers left her alone with a dangerous probationer-in violation of department policy after complaining about racism on the job. 

"A high-level supervisor for the MDOC, I asked him what is an African American supposed to do if they are discriminated against in the MDOC? You know what he said to me? He said, 'They should shut up and go back to work,'" said Marko.

Lisa's speaking out made work more difficult for her husband, who was a deputy warden at the Thumb correctional facility.  During the trial, which lasted more than a month, it was discovered that high level administrators in Lansing sent a copy of Lisa's lawsuit to her husband's boss in an effort to get him fired for her civil rights case and the media attention it received.
"I just believe that people were not happy that I was there, and they felt like they just, they would react however they wanted to," she said.

The attorney general's office provided this statement in reaction to the jury's decision: "We are extremely surprised and disappointed in this jury decision and its $11.3 million verdict.  We are reviewing our options with our client, but we fully expect to appeal."