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Car dealership accused of male sexual harassment ordered not to retaliate

Car dealership accused of male sexual harassment ordered not to retaliate

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—The injunction against a car dealership forbidding it from retaliating against male employees who allege they were sexually harassed—and who, the judge found in the case of one former employee, received death threats—is extremely unusual, an EEOC attorney said.

In a ruling last week in an Albuquerque, N.M., hearing, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Bruce Black issued the preliminary injunction against Albuquerque-based Pitre Inc. after hearing testimony from numerous current and former male employees expressing concern about retaliation by the car dealership, which Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued.

Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney of the EEOC's Phoenix district office, described the preliminary injunction as “extremely unusual” but warranted in this case.

The underlying lawsuit, which was filed Sept. 29, 2011, alleged the dealership subjected a group of men to sexual harassment for more than 10 years and retaliated against those who complained to management.

According to the suit, male co-worker James Gallegos “grabbed, slapped and/or touched” male employees on various parts of their bodies, frequently exposed himself to other male employees and solicited sexual relations, among other acts. When the workers complained, they were subject to retaliation, according to the suit, which said Mr. Gallegos was terminated in 2010.

After holding an evidentiary hearing in December, Judge Black issued a “court's findings and fact and conclusions of law,” which said half of the individuals interviewed by the EEOC's paralegal had “expressed extreme fear” about participating in this lawsuit because of retaliation concerns.

The named plaintiff in the case, Richard Yob, felt forced to move to another city. When he returned at one point to speak to the FBI, “he found his vehicle had been vandalized with a threatening message on the windshield,” according to the EEOC's suit.

The preliminary injunction prohibits the dealership from contacting any other area car dealerships and asking them to refuse to hire any of the participants in the litigation.

“We want to make sure witnesses and victims of discrimination are able to come forward without fear of physical harm and without fear they'll be blackballed in the industry they're working in,” Ms. O'Neill said.

A spokesman for the dealership could not be reached.