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Fremont Toyota Sued For Harassment And Retaliation Against Afghani Employees

Afghani-Americans Targeted for Name-Calling and Threats, EEOC Alleges

SAN FRANCISCO — Local car dealership  Fremont Toyota violated federal law when its management harassed Afghani-American  employees due to their national origin, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity  Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

  According  to the EEOC, Fremont Toyota’s general manger singled out four Afghani-American  salesmen during a staff meeting, calling them “terrorists,” asserting that he  is the dictator at the car dealership just as a dictator rules Afghanistan,  and threatening them with violence. After  the men reported the harassment, they faced retaliation by the car  dealership. The company treated them so  poorly that the salesmen felt they had no other option but to resign. An Afghani-American manager who spoke up in  support of the four salesmen was also fired from his job for defending the  harassed employees.

“My  family fled Afghanistan  because of the terrorism, dictatorship and lack of freedom there,” said  Mohammad Sawary, one of the salesmen.  “Now in America, this man [the general manger] lashes out at us out in  front of all of our coworkers, calling us ‘terrorists’ and proclaiming himself  ‘dictator’ here at Fremont Toyota.”

Harassment  based on national origin and retaliation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights  Act of 1964. After first attempting to  reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the  lawsuit (EEOC v. Fremont  Automobile Dealership LLC, dba Fremont Toyota, Civil  No. 11-4131 JCS) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of  California, seeking monetary damages on behalf of the workers, training on  anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site and other  measures to prevent future discrimination.

“Despite the diversity of the Bay  Area, people are still being targeted for harassment due to their origins and stereotypes  associated with their background. This type of behavior is not only illegal but  it also goes against the grain of who we are – a nation mostly of immigrants  and their descendants,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional  Attorney William R. Tamayo.

EEOC San Francisco District  Director Michael Baldonado pointed out that more than a third of all cases seen  by the Commission involve retaliation, and that, for the first time ever,  retaliation under all statutes (36,258) surpassed race (35,890) as the most  frequently filed charge at the EEOC in fiscal year 2010. He said, “Employers who try to solve a  harassment problem by getting rid of the people who speak out about it will  only add to that statistic. We hope this  lawsuit will remind employers to respond properly to complaints about  harassment or discrimination, with timely investigation and steps to end any  misconduct.”

The EEOC enforces federal  laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC  is available on its web site at