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A black man fired from his job as a high-tech painter after complaining about alleged racial harassment has won a $4 million award for discrimination — a verdict won with the help of an attorney who had joined the case just two months before trial. Bennie R. Gibson, 56, sued Fort Worth, Texas-based Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. for race discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress, adding claims of retaliation and wrongful discharge after his firing in August 1999. Gibson v. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., No. 236-165928-96 (Tarrant Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). Gibson alleged that Bell employees and a supervisor repeatedly made racial slurs and that supervisors refused to take action. He claimed that photos of his wife and child in his locker were torn up and trashed. A sign posted on his locker on one occasion allegedly read, “N—-r, why don’t you quit,” he testified. “It started in ’95,” said his lawyer, Raul Loya of Dallas’ Loya and Associates. “They would pass out racial jokes around his work area and leave him a copy of the jokes. The more he complained, the worse it got.” Gibson eventually took his complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The defendants denied that Gibson had been fired for retaliation; they alleged that he was insubordinate and a troublemaker, and that he complained too much. ENTER LOYA Loya joined the case about two months before the trial, when Gibson’s previous legal team dropped him when he was unable to make a $1,000 payment. He hired Loya on a referral from the Dallas Bar Association. Loya said he was reluctant to take the case: “These cases don’t go very far, but my staff were convinced he was such a good guy.” A Vietnam veteran, Gibson worked for 32 years at Bell as a painter of helicopter blades, airplane parts and technical parts. Gibson’s pretrial demand totaled $75,000. The verdict, after a seven-day trial, was $80,000 in past lost wages, $920,000 in future lost wages, $1 million for past and future mental anguish and $2 million for punitive damages. Defense attorney Jeff L. Jones of Fort Worth, Texas’ Fielding, Parker, Jones & Posey declined comment.

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