The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
EEOC and Barber Auto Settle Bias Lawsuit
Sacramento - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced a $550,000 settlement with Barber Dodge and Fairfield Toyota, part of the Barber Dealer Group, a network of thirteen auto dealerships in Fairfield and Vallejo of Solano County, California. This resolves a federal lawsuit that alleged constant harassment of seven employees between June and December 2000, with name-calling such as "terrorists" and "thieves" and public derision of their Afghan national origin, dark skin color and Muslim faith. The suit also raised charges of constructive discharge and retaliation.
Under the terms of the Consent Decree signed today by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell, Barber Dodge and Fairfield Toyota deny all charges but have agreed to resolve the lawsuit (EEOC v. Fairfield Toyota, Barber Dodge, CIV. S-03-0657 GEB GGH). The dealerships will pay the seven former employees $550,000, and will conduct training to prevent future discrimination, revise anti-discrimination policies and implement an effective complaint procedure.
A former employee recounted of her experience, "What I remember is, I remember hatred." Marcia Mitchell, the EEOC attorney who worked on this case, said, "The discrimination haunted the employees. One young woman noted that this was her first 'real' job after college, and because of her experience at Barber Dodge, she fears future employment will hold more harassment and bias."
"Strikingly, this behavior all occurred prior to 9-11 but around the time when bin Laden and Afghanistan were in the news related to other terrorist incidents," stated EEOC Regional Attorney William Tamayo. "This case together with another EEOC case settled last March for $1.1 million, involving harassment of Muslim Pakistani steel workers reveals that Middle Easterners and Muslims have been the targets of discrimination for quite some time."
He continued: "We are pleased that Barber Auto took the lawsuit seriously and settled the matter. This is a good result which allows the former employees to move on with their lives, and to ensure that future employees at the car dealerships are protected against harassment. "EEOC District Director H. Joan Ehrlich commented, "It is our hope that the public and particularly the Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities understand that the EEOC takes cases of national origin bias and religious discrimination very seriously, and will not hesitate to sue employers who have allowed such behavior to infect their workforce."
Five of the employees were represented by Bruce Bernstein of Law Offices of Bruce Bernstein in Lafayette, California and Robert Stricker of Stricker & Ball in San Diego, CA.
The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which protects workers age 40 and older from discrimination based on age; the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits gender-based wage discrimination; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the federal sector; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
The San Francisco District's jurisdiction includes Northern and Central California, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Wake Island and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. For more information about EEOC, please visit www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on April 21, 2004.
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