A black former employee of Mercedes Benz in Lafayette, Indiana, is suing the company after he was told he was fired for subordination.
Jeffrey Turner, however, said in a lawsuit that he was fired for speaking out against the owners’ use of racial epithets directed at him and other discriminatory practices against black customers. Both Mike and Bret Raisor are named as owners of the dealership and defendants in the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit obtained by McClatchy, Turner says he worked for the company since 1987 and was the only African-American employee at the Lafayette location — and only one of five the company employed within the region.
In Sept. 2017, Mike Raisor spoke openly of “n----- scalping” Turner’s customers, meaning he charged black customers more solely on the basis of their race, the lawsuit says. Turner called that practice “racist” in the lawsuit and said he was “immediately offended” by the discrimination.
McClatchy news group reached out to the dealership for a comment but did not receive a response as of Wednesday afternoon.
Furthermore, Turner says in the suit that Mike Raisor referred to him as his “favorite n-----” and used the term repeatedly. Turner subsequently reported the incidents to human resources, which then contacted him and the owner for statements on the matter.
Shortly after, Turner claims he was punished by the company, which “unilaterally lower(ed) his commission.” He was also fired and replaced by a “less or similarly qualified white candidate,” the suit alleges.
While the company says Turner was fired for insubordination, Turner says he was “performing his job satisfactorily by fulfilling and/or exceeding his employer’s legitimate performance expectations, as evidenced in part by his receipt of the ‘Best of the Best’ award two years in a row.”
Jokes were also hurled at Turner, he says in the suit.
One of the jokes from Bret Raisor was that Turner would “disappear if the lights go off,” the lawsuit says. Bret Raisor is accused of then directing Turner to “smile” in a room full of people. Turner was the sole black person in the room, the lawsuit says.
According to a statement obtained by CBS4 Indy from Turner’s lawyers, “The corporate attorney for Raisor Auto Group and Mercedes Benz of Lafayette, John R. Gambs, denies that his client violated any employment laws. In a letter, Gambs denies that Mike Raisor used the phrase ‘n----- scalping,’ and instead claims that he used the phrase ‘a n----- in the woodpile.’”
The statement continues: “Turner went to another sales manager for advice after Raisor’s derogatory comment. He told Turner that even though Raisor’s comment was ‘inappropriate,’ Turner shouldn’t take offense because Raisor was just ‘raised in a different generation,’” according to CBS4 Indy.
Turner wants a jury trial and is suing based on racial discrimination, a hostile work environment, breach of contract and wage claims and retaliation based on race.