LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — A black former sales manager at a Mercedes-Benz dealership in northern Indiana is suing the business, saying he was fired in retaliation for complaining about the owner’s repeated use of racist language and his boasts about overcharging African American customers.
Jeffrey Turner filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Mike Raisor Auto Group’s Mercedes-Benz dealership in Lafayette.
Turner started working for Mercedes-Benz of North America in about 1987 and moved to Raisor’s dealership in 2011, becoming sales manager in 2015, the suit said. The company twice named him “Best of the Best.”
The lawsuit said Turner was subjected to a hostile work environment.
“His race was a regular subject of unwelcome verbal harassment … He was also a target for anger over unrelated racial issues,” the attorney states in a press release.
The owner crowed about charging black customers more than the going rate for vehicles on his lot, and commonly referred to African Americans using racist language — including Turner, to his face.
When other employees at the Mercedes-Benz dealership heard Raisor talk this way, they made excuses for him, saying “he’s old and he was raised in a different generation than we are. He didn’t mean anything by it,” Turner said.
Raisor’s personal attorneys dispute the grievances but confirmed he used racist language during a meeting that Turner attended.
“I worked very long and hard to attain that position. I wasn’t about to quit,” Turner.
Turner instead reported Raisor’s behavior to corporate, and Raisor fired him in 2017.
“Their mantra is the best or nothing, but at this particular moment, I don’t think they’re the best,” Turner said in the lawsuit.
An attorney for the dealership has declined to comment.
Turner’s suit seeks damages and a trial by jury.
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