A Fremont car dealership agreed last week to pay $400,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that accuses the general manager of discrimination toward Afghan American employees.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency who filed the lawsuit, the general manager of Fremont Toyota, located at 5851 Cushing Parkway in the Fremont Auto Mall, singled out four male Afghan American salesmen, calling them “terrorists” and making threats of violence.
The EEOC announced the settlement last Tuesday.
According to the Fremont Argus, the abuse began during an October 2007 staff meeting where the four salesmen were referred to as “terrorists.” Court documents state that the general manager, who was unnamed, threatened to “blow them up with a grenade.”
When the employees reported the harassment, they said they experienced more verbal abuse and job scrutiny. The employees eventually resigned later that same month.
The dealership also fired a fifth Afghan-American employee, a manager, who spoke up for the four salesmen according to the lawsuit.
Harassment based on a person’s nationality is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC investigated the case and filed the lawsuit on behalf of the employees, who will receive the entire amount of the settlement, according to the Argus.
"We hope this case clearly signals that the civil rights laws of this country protect everyone from illegal discrimination, regardless of their national origin,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo.
As a result of the settlement, Fremont Toyota must not only pay the five former employees $400,000 but also train all managers in workplace discrimination, post a notice about the lawsuit and report to the EEOC for the next three years.
The Argus reports that the general manager involved in the case is no longer with the dealership.
Some of the former employees joined the U.S. military, according to the EEOC.
"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," former employee Mohammad Sawary said in a statement prepared by the EEOC.