Lawsuit disputes dismissal

LIHUE — A federal agency filed a lawsuit on Friday against a Hawaii auto group, alleging that a manager from one its Kauai dealerships violated federal law when he fired a salesperson for advising other employees to file a discrimination complaint.

A lawsuit from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges that Daniel Young, who worked in the sales and rentals departments at Aloha Auto Group’s Harley-Davidson dealership on Kauai, informed a group of Asian-American and Pacific Islander employees that they had been subjected to racially discriminatory comments by the dealership’s general manager, Bill Hill, in 2014.

EEOC contends that when Aloha Auto Group discovered that Young had talked to other employees about their right to file a hostile work environment complaint, the company fired him in retaliation.

“We’re basically requesting for monetary relief in the form of back pay and compensatory damages,” said Glory Gervacio Saure, director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Honolulu. “We’re also asking for injunctive relief to ensure the company has effective policies in place to prevent people from being harassed, retaliated or discriminated against.”

Hill resigned recently from Kauai Harley-Davidson to return to Seattle to be closer to his grandchildren, said Russell Wong, Aloha Auto Group chief operation officer.

Wong contends Young was terminated “for disrespecting and undermining the leadership of the Harley-Davidson team on Kauai.”

“As an Asian-American and Pacific-Islander, I understand the diversity of Hawaii’s workplace,” Wong said in a statement. “The company does not discriminate against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders nor does it condone retaliation against its employees who assert their employment rights.”

He added: “To the contrary, it has policies in place that prohibit conduct that violates federal and state employment laws and does not tolerate such conduct in the workplace.”

“Retaliation is the most common type of discrimination charge EEOC receives,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction. “Informing other employees of their workplace rights is a protected activity, and trying to quash that right is unlawful.”

The last year, there were 319 charges filed to the EEOC in the state. The number one type of charge that was filed was retaliation, followed by race.

“Of that, I would say 10 percent to 20 percent we found that there was merit was cause for discrimination,” Suare said.

For the island of Kauai, 25 charges were filed: 40 percent were retaliation, 36 percent were of a sexual nature, and 24 percent involved racial charges.

Last year, the Kauai Police Department settled to pay $100,000 to a female sergeant after she filed EEOC discrimination charges, alleging he was sexually harassed and retaliated against for reporting the harassment, becoming the target of several internal affairs investigations since 2011.

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