Fremont Toyota Sued For Harassment And Retaliation Against Afghani Employees

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 www.eeoc.gov.

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