This one may kick up a debate. Was the owner being racist or incredibly ignorant in his political correctness? The Star Tribune reports (free reg. required):
A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday contends that suburban (near Minneapolis) car dealer Iten Chevrolet has engaged in a pattern of racial discrimination, including instances in which managers used racial epithets in describing employees and customers who were members of minority groups.
The dealership is a longtime fixture in Brooklyn Center, and sits near some of the metro area’s most racially diverse neighborhoods. It faced similar complaints in the 1990s, reaching an of-court settlement of allegations that racial stereotypes and off-color jokes were common at the company.
Iten’s attorney, William Clelland, called the latest accusations “outrageous” and “lurid.” He said the lawsuit was filed after an attorney for Ron Budhram, a fired employee who is Indian-American, set Tuesday as a deadline for the dealership to agree to a $450,000 settlement.
So apparently Budhram was let go because the owners didn’t appreciate the fact that he moonlighted on the side (as others did as well he claims). The lawsuit however goes into details as to what Budhram cited as discriminatory:
Budhram said the dealership had a racially discriminatory atmosphere during his employment, much of it directed at blacks. In one instance, the suit said, a business consultant at the dealership came across a group of minority and white employees as they were eating and asked, “Why are all the dark-skinned employees standing around?“
On another occasion, the suit stated, a minority employee asked Iten service manager Steve Marchand for permission to go home because his family was without heat after the furnace had stopped working. According to the suit, Marchand, who is named as a defendant, responded “I suppose you can go home. You black guys and your heat — you gotta have your heat.”
On at least a half-dozen occasions, the suit added, Marchand referred to Budhram as “my little brown man.
Now I certainly am not going to defend Marchand’s idiotic comments, but I can understand at least how the guy could be incredibly ignorant in his comments without necessarily being a racist. Discrimination and racism mean two separate things though. This doesn’t feel like the prior but I can definitely understand a lawsuit based on the latter. I know that throughout my life seemingly well-meaning co-workers have said incredibly stupid things. I guess you learn to block it out. In any case I hope that Budhram’s African-American co-workers get a cut of the loot.