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Findlay Automotive will pay $150,000 to settle racial discrimination lawsuit

Findlay Automotive Group agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by two former employees, but the company strongly disputed the way it was publicly characterized Tuesday by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

In its statement about the case, the agency said the auto dealer agreed to the sum “for subjecting (the employees) to discrimination, harassment and retaliation” without qualifying the statements as allegations. In addition, the statement did not contain the standard line about the company denying guilt.

“I don’t agree with the (statement) at all,” said Tyler Corder, chief financial officer of Findlay Management, an entity that oversees the dealerships. “The EEOC just wants another feather in its cap to show they had pushed another employer into settling.”

Corder repeated previous federal court filings in which the company “adamantly denied” that former employees Sydney Robinson and Jason Grinstead were harassed because they are black and were fired for complaining about the work environment.

“This was strictly an economic decision,” Corder said of the settlement. “It’s very frustrating to get into a situation where the government can pursue these cases with unlimited resources.”

Agency spokesman Christine Park-Gonzalez acknowledged that Findlay did not admit wrongdoing. She added that the agency pursued the case after its own investigation found “a reasonable cause they believe that a violation of the law had occurred.”

The original complaint, filed in September 2010, contended that Grinstead and Robinson were frequent targets of racial slurs and jokes at Findlay Honda dating back nearly six years. In addition, the court papers alleged Findlay treated black employees according to a “separate set of rules” than white counterparts.

However, Corder said the complaints surfaced only after they had been fired for unspecified but unrelated reasons. Company officials never found any evidence to support the allegations, Corder said.

After several settlement conferences overseen by U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen, the two sides came to a broad deal in November and filed the exact terms on Tuesday. Beside the payment to Robinson and Grinstead, Findlay agreed to standard terms including distributing a revised discrimination and complaint policy and hiring an employment consultant.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at toreiley@review
journal.com or 702-387-5290.

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