AutoNation Harassment Led Former Employees to Sue

Two workers who claim they were harassed and fired for refusing to go to strip clubs and bordellos with co-workers are suing the largest auto retailer in the United States, Courthouse News (CN) reported on December 13, 2011. Joshua McCarty and Kevin Petrie are seeking punitive damages from AutoNation for wrongful termination, sexual harassment, retaliation, unfair business practices and wage and hour violations.

The suit filed in Placer County Court alleges “AutoNation and the individual defendants participated in and/or fostered a sexually charged and drug and alcohol infused environment where management would force” the plaintiff and other employees to “go to strip bars and brothels and would try to get Josh and others to receive sexual acts.” In addition to claiming the company and the defendants would “make sexually suggestive remarks, jokes and other inappropriate communications,” the plaintiffs also claim management would take drugs and drink alcohol at company or company-sponsored functions.

When McCarty declined participating in such behavior, the suit alleges “he was scoffed at, ridiculed and mistreated including a cold shoulder, exclusion from meetings, retaliatory and unjust performance reviews, shorting of pay, mistreatment by Human Resources, decline in further promotions and other adverse employment actions and harassing and retaliatory conduct,” according to CN.

Petrie claims his supervisors called him a number of derogatory terms, harassed McCarty when he stood up for Petrie and even harassed customers with such slurs. CN reported that both men were fired a few weeks after McCarty received a text message saying to “get that ‘homo’ out of the store” from the store’s general manager, defendant Gerald Gonsalves, which was intended for another supervisor.

These types of harassment once again represent a hostile working environment form of harassment rather than quid pro quo sexual harassment. The hostile working environment sexual harassment can be brought in lieu of a sexual orientation discrimination claim since there is no specific federal law protecting an employee who has been discriminated against because he or she is gay. Even without a federal law, California is among 11 states that have laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in both private and public jobs. Do you think there needs to be a stronger federal law protecting those who have been subjected to sexual orientation discrimination?

Law Offices of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob – Los Angeles employment attorneys

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