NEW YORK -- Automall Imports, Ltd., doing business as Atlantic
Chevrolet / Cadillac, will pay $127,500 to two former black employees to
settle a racial harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC's lawsuit (Civil Action No. 08-cv-03986(LDW)(ETB) in the
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Central Islip Division)
charged that Atlantic Chevrolet / Cadillac in Bay Shore subjected Michael
Opurum and Pierre Medard to racial harassment and failed to take any prompt
effective remedial action after Opurum complained. The EEOC said that
Atlantic Chevrolet / Cadillac hired Opurum, a 16-year-old high school student,
in 2005 as a part-time student apprentice technician through the Board of
Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) program. Service Center employees
began to harass him on a regular basis by making racially derogatory
statements and using racial epithets and slurs, including use of the "N-word,"
the suit charged. The company also permitted the display of racist symbols
and signs, including a noose, in the workplace until Opurum finally cut it
The lawsuit further asserted that Opurum and his BOCES Program Coordinator
complained to Opurum's supervisor, but the hostile work environment
continued. Opurum was called a "snitch" because he complained and forced
to resign after the situation became intolerable. Medard was subjected to
the same racially hostile work environment, according to the lawsuit.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which
prohibits race discrimination.
"What happened to these vulnerable young workers was disgraceful
and illegal," said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. "The EEOC is here
to halt this kind of workplace abuse and bring a measure of justice and relief
to victims like Michael Opurum and Pierre Medard "
Besides the monetary damages, Atlantic Chevrolet / Cadillac will also pay
compensatory damages, uniform and lost tools, and lost vacation time, plus
attorney fees for Opurum's lawyer. The three-year consent decree settling
the suit includes injunctive relief enjoining Atlantic Chevrolet / Cadillac from
race discrimination, harassment or retaliation. The company must adopt non-
discrimination policies and complaint procedures; conduct anti-discrimination
training; issue a memorandum to all employees of its commitment to abide by
all federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination; post a notice about the
EEOC and the lawsuit; and perform ongoing monitoring and reporting.
"This was a shocking case of racial discrimination where employees
who were supposed to be mentors and teachers to a young high school
student turned out to be his harassers," said EEOC Trial Attorney Kurt
Jung. "All employees, no matter how old or young, have a right to work in an
environment free of racial harassment."
Spencer H. Lewis, director of the EEOC's New York District Office,
added, "Employers must recognize that they have a responsibility to prevent
racial harassment in their workplace and to take swift action to correct it
when it occurs. The EEOC is committed to eliminating racial discrimination in
the workplace and to protecting teens from unlawful discrimination."
The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for
enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Further
information about EEOC is available on the agency's web site at