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Cadillac Dealer Created Hostile Workplace for Arabs, Muslims: Suit

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on September 20, 2013 4:09 PM

A Chicago Cadillac dealer is being sued in federal court by the EEOC on allegations that the employer created a hostile work environment for its Muslim and Arab staff.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a suit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Wednesday on behalf of Rizza Cadillac employees, seeking damages and injunctive relief for the discriminatory work environment created by the dealership's managers.

Suits like this one are typically losing battles when the allegations of racism are this severe.

Managers Used Racial Slurs

Hostile work environments claims typically center on a pattern of inappropriate conduct by supervisors or employees, although in some cases a single, egregious slur has been enough to sink an employer's case.

In this case, according to an EEOC press release, the Rizza Cadillac managers -- no relation to the Wu-Tang Clan front man Rza -- are alleged to have user slurs like "sand n----r" when referring to Muslims or Arabs.

Since this case has already made its way to federal court, we can assume that the EEOC failed to resolve the case through the conciliation process. That is unfortunate news for Rizza Cadillac, as the alleged evidence of "slurs and making mocking and insulting references to the Quran," reports the Tribune, does not create a large likelihood of settlement given the Seventh Circuit's record on this kind of conduct.

Ethnic/Religious Slurs and Cars

Earlier in 2013, the Seventh Circuit decided that Chrysler did a pathetic job in investigating some brutal racial and religious harassment of an employee, which ended up costing the car company $3.5 million in punitive damages.

Key in the Chrysler case was the jury's -- and later the Seventh Circuit's -- disbelief that the employer upheld its duty to investigate and deal with complaints of harassment, a breach of which can result in a hostile work environment.

Even if the top brass at Rizza Cadillac -- they have eight other locations -- claim that the company has a strong anti-discrimination and harassment policy, misconduct towards Muslims and Arabs at the management level will make liability hard to escape.

Under Vance v. Ball, which will likely serve to limit Title VII harassment claims in the future, the allegedly anti-Arab managers at Rizza Cadillac will likely considered "supervisors," narrowing the employer's affirmative defenses to liability.

Bottom Line

This Rizza Cadillac case is a good example of how an EEOC case can go so wrong for an employer, and time will tell how much this conduct will cost them.

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