The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit Wednesday against a Wheaton Ford dealership for alleged racial, sexual and national origin-based harassment of a former employee.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, claims a supervisor at Lindsay Ford LLC told an employee of South Asian origin, who began working there in July 2017, that he was a “creepy brown person” and looked like a “serial killer.” The manager also allegedly called the employee derogatory names, threw things at him and groped him.
The behavior alleged occurred “almost immediately” after the employee began working at the dealership as a sales consultant and happened “on a daily basis,” according to the complaint. The employee told his manager that the comments made him uncomfortable.
The employee complained to human resources in September 2017 and after three days was notified that there might be “too much joking in the workplace” but that his allegations were unsubstantiated, according to the complaint. He was offered the chance to continue working at the Wheaton location or to apply to a dealership in Dulles, an hour away.
The employee resigned that day “to avoid further harassment,” according to the complaint.
“No employee should be forced to endure unwelcome touching or vile insults based on race, national origin or sex in order to earn a living,” Jamie R. Williamson, director of the EEOC Philadelphia District Office said in a statement. “The EEOC will take strong action to protect workers from egregious harassment if an employer fails to do so.”
The EEOC notified the defendants in June that it had found reasonable cause to believe they had violated federal law and invited them to discuss methods to resolve the issue, according to the complaint, which added that the defendants were sent a notice of failure of conciliation later that month.
The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants and their agents from engaging in harassment based on sex, national origin and race, as well as an order requiring them to institute and carry out non-discrimination policies and practices. The EEOC is also seeking back pay and other relief for the former employee to address the effects of the alleged unlawful employment practices.
“Preventing and addressing harassment is a priority issue for the Commission,” Debra M. Lawrence, EEOC regional attorney, said in a statement. “Harassment is especially pernicious when a manager is the wrongdoer. Employers are obligated to provide employees with an environment free of harassment and must take prompt and appropriate action to stop and remedy the harassment if it occurs.”
A representative from Lindsay Ford was did not respond to a request for comment.
The case is U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Lindsay Ford LLC, 8:19-cv-02636.