The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

PRESS RELEASE
9-3-09

EEOC OBTAINS $127,500 SETTLEMENT FROM ATLANTIC CHEVROLET / CADILLAC FOR RACE HARASSMENT

Auto Mechanics Abused Black Student Apprentice and Forced Him to Quit After He Complained, Federal Agency Charged

NEW YORK -- Automall Imports, Ltd., doing business as Atlantic Chevrolet / Cadillac, will pay $127,500 to two former black employees to settle a racial harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 08-cv-03986(LDW)(ETB) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Central Islip Division) charged that Atlantic Chevrolet / Cadillac in Bay Shore subjected Michael Opurum and Pierre Medard to racial harassment and failed to take any prompt effective remedial action after Opurum complained. The EEOC said that Atlantic Chevrolet / Cadillac hired Opurum, a 16-year-old high school student, in 2005 as a part-time student apprentice technician through the Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) program. Service Center employees began to harass him on a regular basis by making racially derogatory statements and using racial epithets and slurs, including use of the “N-word,” the suit charged. The company also permitted the display of racist symbols and signs, including a noose, in the workplace until Opurum finally cut it down.

The lawsuit further asserted that Opurum and his BOCES Program Coordinator complained to Opurum’s supervisor, but the hostile work environment continued. Opurum was called a “snitch” because he complained and forced to resign after the situation became intolerable. Medard was subjected to the same racially hostile work environment, according to the lawsuit.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race discrimination.

“What happened to these workers was disgraceful and illegal,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “The EEOC is here to halt this kind of workplace abuse and bring a measure of justice and relief to victims like Michael Opurum and Pierre Medard ”

Besides the monetary damages, Atlantic Chevrolet / Cadillac will also pay compensatory damages, uniform and lost tools, and lost vacation time, plus attorney fees for Opurum’s lawyer. The three-year consent decree settling the suit includes injunctive relief enjoining Atlantic Chevrolet / Cadillac from race discrimination, harassment or retaliation. The company must adopt non-discrimination policies and complaint procedures; conduct anti-discrimination training; issue a memorandum to all employees of its commitment to abide by all federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination; post a notice about the EEOC and the lawsuit; and perform ongoing monitoring and reporting.

“This was a shocking case of racial discrimination where employees who were supposed to be mentors and teachers to a young high school student turned out to be his harassers,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Kurt Jung. “All employees, no matter how old or young, have a right to work in an environment free of racial harassment.”

Spencer H. Lewis, director of the EEOC’s New York District Office, added, “Employers must recognize that they have a responsibility to prevent racial harassment in their workplace and to take swift action to correct it when it occurs. The EEOC is committed to eliminating racial discrimination in the workplace and to protecting teens from unlawful discrimination.”

The enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov.


This page was last modified on September 3, 2009.

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