Published on April 4, 2014

Car dealer settles same-sex male harassment suit

By Judy Greenwald, Crain News Service

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (April 4, 2014) — More than 50 men will share in a $2.1 million settlement to be paid by an Albuquerque car dealership to settle a same-sex sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency said April 1.

The EEOC said James Gallegos, a former lot manager at Pitre Inc., under the direction of Charles Ratliff Jr., who was general manager, subjected a class of men to egregious forms of sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964. The actions allegedly included shocking sexual comments, frequent solicitations for oral sex and regular touching, grabbing and biting of male workers on their buttocks and genitals.

The EEOC also charged that Pitre retaliated against male employees who objected to the sexually hostile work environment. In 2012, a federal judge issued an injunction against the auto dealership, forbidding it from retaliating against male employees who alleged they were sexually harassed and who, the judge found in the case of one former employee, received death threats.

In addition to paying the settlement, Pitre is prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against its employees and requires the dealership to have policies and practices that will provide its employees with a work environment free of sexual harassment and retaliation, evaluate its managers on their compliance with anti-discrimination laws, and hire a monitor to oversee its efforts to provide a harassment-free workplace, among other measures.

Under terms of the settlement, the dealership also agreed to never rehire Mr. Gallegos, Mr. Ratcliff and two other employees.

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Christina Vigil said in a statement: “It is shocking that such egregious harassment could have continued under the nose of management for over 10 years. The debilitating stigma that is still attached to male sexual harassment cases made it difficult for men to come forward to report.

“However, a couple of brave men did come forward, which is what has helped resolve the issues in this workplace.”

The car dealership has denied all the charges, according to the settlement agreement. Attorneys for the dealership either had no comment or could not be reached.

According to its website, Pitre Buick GMC in Albuquerque has been “providing the best new and used Buick and GMC models to the Bernalillo County area” since 1989.

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This report appeared on businessinsurance.com, the website of Business Insurance magazine, a Chicago-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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