Automotive

Hendrick due to respond to suit by former employee claiming racist harassment

According to the complaint, St. George made monkey noises at Blair and called him a “tint meter,” a reference to his skin color being used to measure the legal level of window tinting. The complaint also states that St. George referred to an injured Black employee as a “darkie” who would not show bruises.

In 2019, St. George started throwing banana peels at Blair and later began to dangle whole bananas in his face, the complaint alleges.

In another incident, St. George allegedly altered photographs of Blair by adding a head covering to “make [Blair] look like a Muslim” or blacking out his teeth and drawing gold earrings and then turned them into screen savers on computers in the service area.

The harassment became so concerning that some of Blair’s co-workers asked St. George to stop, the complaint said.

Vince Davis, Blair’s then-supervisor, stepped in, the complaint said. In December 2019, Davis, who is also Black, went with Blair to Hays to raise concerns about the banana peels and comments. According to the complaint, Hays brushed the concerns off and said “some people are just racist.”

The lawsuit also describes situations in which St. George referred to another employee and the employee’s brother as “mocha twins”; showed Blair memes depicting Michelle Obama as a man; and, in the weeks following basketball player Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash, showed Blair a meme of football player Colin Kaepernick captioned with “I wish he had a helicopter.”

Blair went to Hays about the Kaepernick photo and the “mocha twins” comment, and Hays said he would ask St. George to be more professional, according to the complaint.

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The complaint also said Hays shrugged off Blair’s concerns about another meme circulated in a group text by white employees — one that made light of police violence and George Floyd’s murder by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

The complaint describes how Blair on Sept. 23 contacted a human resources representative to talk about the dealership’s racial atmosphere. Blair quit the next day, the complaint said, after Hays called him off the dealership floor, accused him of stirring up trouble among the workers and told him to get his act together.

Hendrick has yet to file a response to Blair’s complaint. The company asked for and received a 30-day extension to file that response, citing a need to further investigate the claims, according to court records. The deadline is now Monday.

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