Fremont Toyota Pays $400,000 to Settle EEOC’s Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO — Fremont, Calif., car dealership Fremont Toyota agreed to pay $400,000 and implement training for the dealership’s management staff to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Fremont Toyota’s general manager singled out four Afghan American salesmen during a staff meeting, calling them “terrorists” and threatening them with violence. After the men reported the harassment, they faced retaliation by the car dealership, such as additional verbal harass­ment and extra job scrutiny. Finally, the salesmen felt they had no option but to resign. An Afghan-American manager was also fired from his job after he spoke up for the four salesmen.

"The irony of this matter is that, after being labeled ‘terrorists’ at our old job, most of us found work with the U.S. military serving in Afghanistan protecting U.S. soldiers from the terrorists," said Mohammad Sawary, one of the former employees.

Harassment based on national origin and retaliation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After an investigation by EEOC Investigators Scott Doughtie and Adriana Gomez, and 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 CRB) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Under the terms of the decree resolving the lawsuit, Fremont Toyota agreed to train all managers, post a notice regarding the lawsuit and to report to the EEOC for a three-year period, in addition to paying $400,000 to the five former employees.

EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, "We hope this case clearly signals that the civil rights laws of this country protect everyone from illegal discrimination, regardless of their national origin.”

EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado noted that the Bay Area is the home of the largest Afghan population outside of Afghanistan.

Baldonado said, “We hope this settlement makes more people in the Afghan community aware of their rights and how the EEOC can protect them as we continue our outreach to underserved communities.”