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Damages reduced for Wonder Bread

The Associated Press
Saturday September 30, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO – A judge said Friday he will reduce the $121 million in punitive damages that a jury awarded to 17 black workers who were discriminated against at a Wonder Bread plant. 

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Stuart R. Pollak said the punishment against Interstate Bakeries Corp., the nation’s largest bread wholesaler, did not fit the crime. 

“I’m not at all persuaded that anything like $121 million is necessary to make the point that the jury was trying to make here ... to deter such conduct in the future,” Pollak said from the bench during a three-hour hearing. 

Pollak did not say what he would reduce the damages to or when he would make that decision. 

After a two-month trial and nine days deliberating, a jury in August found that the workers at the San Francisco plant were passed over for promotions, subjected to racial slurs and suffered other indignities at the hands of co-workers and managers. 

The bakery, based in Kansas City, Mo., produces Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Home Pride and Hostess Cupcakes. 

The same jury also awarded 21 workers involved in the suit $11 million in actual damages to cover lost wages and for pain and suffering, but the judge reduced that to $5.8 million shortly after it was awarded.