John Elway’s Toyota Dealership Named in Class Action

Posted January 9th, 2012.

Employees of Color Detail Severe Patterns of Racial Discrimination & Harassment

For more information, contact Jaime Baum, [email protected], 646-791-4848

(January 9, 2012, Los Angeles, CA) – A case filed by Sanford Wittels & Heisler today in Los Angeles’ Superior Court claims that John Elway’s Manhattan Beach Toyota knowingly permits a corporate culture of racial discrimination and harassment.  The complaint alleges that John Elway and his business partners, Mitchell D. Pierce and Jerry L. Williams, have refused to take action, even though they have been made aware of the discrimination and the intolerable working conditions it creates for the dealership’s loyal and hardworking employees of color.

The former Sales Manager and long-time employee of John Elway’s Manhattan Beach Toyota, Timothy Sandquist, filed the class-action lawsuit on behalf of himself and all other current and former employees of color.  Mr. Sandquist, an African American, describes how he and other class members were driven out of the dealership, due to Elway and his partners refusing to curtail the constant racial discrimination and harassment that they were subjected to while working at the former Denver Bronco quarterback’s Toyota dealership.

Mr. Sandquist is represented in the matter by Janette Wipper and Felicia Medina, from the San Francisco office of Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP.

“It is beyond belief that anyone could ignore the pervasive racial discrimination and harassment that Mr. Sandquist and other employees experienced at John Elway’s Manhattan Beach Toyota,” said Ms. Wipper. “This workplace is the very epitome of a hostile work environment.”

The complaint identifies Darrell Sperber, the General Manager at John Elway’s Toyota, as a repeat harasser and the primary source of the rampant racial harassment.  Sperber was allegedly the originator of frequent racial slurs, epithets and stereotypes, including referring to non-Caucasian employees as “dumb Mexicans,” “goddamn Mexicans,” “apes,” “Aunt Jemimas,” “camel people” and “slant eyes.”  Sperber also encouraged personnel of the dealership to make demeaning and vicious racist comments about non-Caucasian customers who chose not to purchase a vehicle.

According to Mr. Sandquist, dealership personnel victimized by Sperber have no recourse in dealing with the regular harassment discrimination, because all methods of reporting on-the-job discrimination, harassment or abuse are funneled through Sperber himself.  The complaint alleges that several employees who did complain about Sperber’s harassment and discriminatory behavior were retaliated against with further harassment and sometimes termination.  It is also alleged that employees of color experienced significant and ongoing disparities in compensation, promotion and other employment opportunities in comparison to the dealership’s Caucasian employees.

As set forth in the complaint, as recently as June 2010, an anonymous employee survey provided overwhelming evidence that employees at John Elway’s Manhattan Beach Toyota were constantly harassed and discriminated against by Sperber.  Despite the widespread complaints, the defendants, including Elway, took no disciplinary action against Sperber, nor did they implement any initiatives to remedy and end harassment and discrimination at the dealership.

Mr. Sandquist filed the class action to force John Elway and his two business partners to abide by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the California Unfair Competition Law that make the discrimination and harassment practiced at the dealership illegal.  The lawsuit seeks to end the systematic, unlawful harassment and discrimination at John Elway’s Manhattan Beach Toyota, through the implementation of policies and programs that restore equal employment rights at the dealership.

About Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP

Sanford Wittels & Heisler is a law firm with offices in Washington, DC, New York, and San Francisco that specializes in qui tam, employment discrimination, wage and hour, consumer and complex corporate class action litigation and has represented thousands of individuals in major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents individual clients in employment, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower, public accommodations, commercial, medical malpractice, and personal injury matters. In May 2010, the firm secured the largest jury award in the U.S. in a gender discrimination class action in an employment case when a jury returned a verdict of $253 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.  For more information, contact Sanford Wittels & Heisler at 646-791-4848.