Thursday, February 26, 2009

Car Dealership Sued for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

Another auto dealership has settled a sexual harassment case rather than facing a jury trial for harassment and retaliation.

Murphy Ford Inc. will pay $244,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), announced recently. The dealership is located in Chester, Pa. and operates under the name Murphy Ford Lincoln Mercury Murphy Ford Inc.

Murphy Ford and its service manager sexually harassed three female employees and fired one woman for complaining about the unlawful harassment, according to the EEOC lawsuit.

The service manager’s harassment included sexually explicit comments and grabbing his private parts in their presence, according to the federal court complaint. The EEOC said that despite the female worker's complaints to the owner and dealership management, Murphy Ford did nothing to stop the harassment. Instead, the EEOC said that the dealership retaliated against her by suddenly firing her.

The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

The seven-year consent decree settling the suit provides $206,500 to one of the female workers, who was also represented by private counsel, Edith A. Pearce. The consent decree contains significant remedial relief, including a provision that Murphy Ford train managers and supervisors regarding Title VII’s legal requirements annually for the seven-year duration of the consent decree.

“Internal complaints about unlawful harassment give the employer the chance to correct problems before they turn into lawsuits,” said EEOC Acting Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence.

“This case should remind employers that they have an obligation to take prompt and effective measures to stop harassment in the workplace. If the employer instead does the wrong thing and terminates an employee who complains about harassment, then the EEOC will take action.”

Another auto dealership that advertises itself as "one of the largest privately owned companies in the United States" recently lost a sexual harassment jury trial in Denver. The jury verdict was reduced to statutory caps, but the case is still pending against The Larry H. Miller Group.

Colorado employment lawyer Kimberlie Ryan and her co-counsel Whitney Traylor won the $3.175 million jury verdict in Colorado for sexual harassment and retaliation against The Larry H. Miller Group in 2007.

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