The Oregonian's business page reported last Friday about the settlement payment (with no wrongdoing admitted by Lithia) to former car salesman Hussain Adel and his supervisor, Mark Harris.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had alleged in a 2004 lawsuit against Lithia that Adel, who is Iranian, was repeatedly subjected to racial and religious slurs, and once physically assaulted by a co-worker. The EEOC said Harris was fired when he tried to intervene on Adel's behalf.
Lithia also agreed to review its anti-discrimination procedures and better inform employees about their rights at work. But Lithia's corporate HQ had good reason to know better, even before the latest settlement involving one of its 94 dealerships in a dozen states.
That's because Medford-based Lithia settled a $450,000 racial-discrimination suit with the EEOC at one of its Colorado dealerships in 2002.
According to that earlier suit, the general manager of Centennial Chrysler in Englewood, Colo., used racial slurs and ordered a manager to fire his three African-American salesmen—on Jan. 15, 1999, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
At the time, Lithia was acquiring the dealership and not directly responsible for its management.
But Lithia was the primary defendant. And part of the $450,000 settlement, according to Denver EEOC lawyer Joseph Mitchell, required "lasting changes at Lithia...through training" such as an effective anti-discrimination policy and protecting employees who do complain.
Looks awful similar to last week's settlement. Says Lithia this week, "It is always of great concern when any member of our team feels they were not treated fairly."