Reporting Dana Kozlov
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Color and cars should refer to red, silver and blue — paint choices.
But for a group of men, they say color made working for Rogers Auto in Bronzeville a painful experience. Color in this case refers to the color of their skin.
The salesmen filed a lawsuit Thursday, CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports.
The plaintiffs say they were subjected to religious slurs daily, including “watermelon boys,” “boy,” “bin Laden,” and the N word.
“The blatant racism, the comments — I couldn’t believe it,” says Fred Redeaux, a former auto salesman.
Redeaux is one of six employees or former employees — five African American and one Muslim — who say they banded together after hearing enough. Their lawsuit claims racial and religious harassment in the workplace.
“I got tired of going home every night and couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror, knowing that I didn’t defend myself, I didn’t defend my co-workers,” salesman Aziz Tayeh says.
The plaintiffs say their complaints to management went nowhere. Their attorney also filed a complaint with the EEOC, claiming religious harassment, and sent letters to the dealer’s owner, citing a racially hostile environment.
“They fired two of the guys right away, and another one of my clients just couldn’t take it anymore,” attorney Eugene Hollander says.
Despite the lawsuit, Dion Turner, Charles Barnett and Tayeh still work there.
“I have to provide for my family. I just can’t get up and leave. I have to swallow my pride and work,” Tayeh says.
“Am I comfortable with this? No, but at some point it’s got to stop,” Barnett says.
The dealership’s owner, Monte Sher, says he hasn’t seen the lawsuit yet.
But he says it’s malicious and unfounded, adding every manager and employee is given a handbook with a strict code of conduct.
The six plaintiffs acknowledge they didn’t document the alleged harassment. Their attorney says they didn’t think they needed to.