PLANO, Texas — An African American auto salesman was subjected to harassment because of his race and color by AOD Ventures, Inc., doing business as Autos of Dallas, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.
Autos of Dallas is a Plano-based retailer of luxury vehicles. Car salesman Jonathon Sellers, who is Black, attended a December 2019 holiday party in which management called him to the front of the room and handed Sellers a trophy labeling him as the employee “Least Likely to Be Seen in the Dark.” Sellers and other employees in attendance found the trophy profoundly offensive. Sellers complained about the trophy to the general manager, who told him the trophy was a joke. No remedial action was taken in response to his complaints. After Sellers returned to work following the holiday party, other employees teased Sellers. One employee told Sellers he needed to smile to be seen in the poorly lit section of the auto dealership. Sellers could no longer tolerate the work environment and was forced to resign, according to the suit.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race and color. The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 4:21-CV-00418 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In this case, the EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief, including an order barring Autos of Dallas from engaging in discriminatory treatment in the future.
“Autos of Dallas insisted to Mr. Sellers that the trophy handed to him was all a big joke,” said Joel Clark, a senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “Racist objects like this one have a sordid history, one that should never have been dredged up by the company. The EEOC will fight to protect the rights of workers who are subject to race and color discrimination.”
EEOC Acting Regional Attorney Eduardo Juarez said, “The defendant should have properly responded to the complaints made by Mr. Sellers about the holiday party. Employers are required to take prompt effective remedial measures in response to complaints about discrimination.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.