OAKLAND, Calif.-Four women have filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against their former employer, Gans Tire-West Co. of Hayward, Calif., accusing the private-brand tire marketer of creating ``a sexually and racially discriminatory, harassing and hostile working environment.'' The suit, filed April 17, targets Gans Tire-West; its president, Neil Ganz; sales employees Michael DiBlasio and David Grapperhaus; parent firm Gans Tire Co. Inc. of Malden, Mass.; and Adia Services Inc., an employment agency that placed the women in clerical support jobs with Gans Tire. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Attorney David Suddendorf, who spoke on behalf of the Gans Tire defendants, said he couldn't comment on the pending litigation but noted: ``We are finding companies, especially successful companies, are having these kinds of suits filed against them.''
He said the defendants plan to defend themselves ``very aggressively.''
The plaintiffs-Diana Caballero, Lorraine McKnight, Margarita Chavez and Diana Cohn-were employed by Gans between 1994 and 1995. Last October, the women filed complaints with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which granted the women a ``right to sue'' in a California Superior Court.
In addition to sexual harassment charges, Ms. Cabellero also is suing for wrongful termination from Gans Tire. The other three said they resigned due to the ``intolerable'' working environment. The suit claims at least 20 female employees resigned or were terminated during 1994 and 1995.
The plaintiffs claim that, on a regular basis, Messrs. Ganz, DiBlasio and Grapperhaus ``made unwelcome sexually intimidating overtures and verbal and demeaning abuse of a sexual nature to female employees. . . including noises, remarks, gender and racial slurs and/or jokes directed at female employees, and/or made in the presence of, female employees.''
Furthermore, Gans Tire failed to take any remedial or disciplinary action regarding these alleged incidents, the suit said.
Ms. Caballero further accused Mr. DiBlasio of making an unwelcome sexual advance, ordering her to the office lunch room, where he backed her up against a wall.
She also accused Mr. Grapperhaus of making unwelcome physical contact on several occasions. One such incident was witnessed by other Gans salesmen, who ``verbally commended (Mr.) Grapperhaus on his conduct, again attesting to the hostile and sexually degrading work environment existing at Gans Tire,'' the suit said.
Ms. Caballero said she complained about the incidents to management, but they blamed her for them and ``failed and refused to discipline'' the defendants, the suit alleged.
She further accused Gans Tire and Neil Ganz of firing her in retaliation for making the complaints.
In a press release, the plaintiffs' law firm said the racial slurs, open sexual connotations and abusiveness towards women at Gans Tire occurred on a daily basis and was ``witnessed, condoned and imitated by some of the men who followed their owner's lead.''
The law firm claimed that when some of the female employees confronted Mr. Ganz about his conduct and verbal abuse, ``his general response was: `He could do whatever the hell he wanted within his office.' ''
The women also are suing Adia Services for fraud-falsely representing to the plaintiffs that Gans Tire was a non-hostile, non-discriminatory and non-harassing working environment, a representation the suit claims the company knew was false.
Gans Tire markets the Galaxy and Constellation brands of truck, farm and off-the-road tires.