PORTLAND, Ore.Three former employees of Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc. in Oregon are suing the dealership for $750,000 in compensatory damages and $15 million in punitive damages, claiming they were discriminated against and wrongfully terminated.
In the complaintfiled March 11 in Multnomah County, Ore., Circuit Courtformer employees Vincent Finzer, Tracie Lee Udey and Synthea Russell said they faced constant demands from their managers at Les Schwab stores in Portland and Clackamas, Ore., to sell customers products they didn't need.
When they refused to sell those products, they claimed, they were physically and verbally abused.
The products they were urged to sell included tires, batteries, shock absorbers, windshield wipers and brakes, they claim in the lawsuit.
In a prepared statement given to Tire Business, Les Schwab said it cannot comment on any pending litigation, but added that it is dedicated to offering superior value and service to its customers.
If you live in a town with a Les Schwab Tire Center, or you've been to one of our stores, you know we don't just sell tires, we take pride in doing the right thing, the company said.
We would never condone or encourage behaviors that could damage the history of world-class customer service we've built in the communities where we live and work.
Mr. Finzer worked at the Clackamas store between July 2013 and April 2015 in a sales and service position, according to the suit. Ms. Udey worked as a bookkeeper at various Les Schwab locations in Portland and Clackamas between 1999 and September 2014, it said.
Mr. Finzer and Ms. Udey both used the Ethics Point system at Les Schwab to file complaints against their managers. Ethics Point, according to the suit, was intended to allow anonymous complaints by employees and guarantee confidentiality.
Instead, Mr. Finzer was terminated and Ms. Udey forced out of her job, according to the lawsuit.
Ms. Russell worked as a bookkeeper at the Clackamas store from 2011 to 2014. According to the complaint, she attended Ms. Udey's Ethics Point meeting in March 2014 with Les Schwab upper management.
At that meeting, Ms. Russell testified she had seen a manager regularly berate, threaten and grab Ms. Udey. Soon afterward, the suit claims, Ms. Russell's hours were gradually cut until she was terminated in August 2014.
Defendants (Les Schwab and the managers named in the lawsuit) acted with malice and showed a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and acted with a conscious indifference to the health, safety and welfare of plaintiffs, the lawsuit said.
The suit seeks back pay, front pay and lost benefits for all three plaintiffs; compensatory damages of $350,000 for Ms. Udey, $250,000 for Mr. Finzer, and $150,000 for Ms. Russell, plus pre- and post-judgment interest; and $5 million each in punitive damages.
To reach this reporter: mmoore@ crain.com