Ex-Employee Files Suit Alleging Racial Discrimination

A 21-year-old Detroit man has accused Gerber Collision and Glass of racial discrimination in a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit filed in August.

In a six-count complaint filed Michigan’s U.S. District Court’s Eastern District, Ernest Garner, a former Gerber employee in Novi, Mich., accused the auto glass company  of racial discrimination and harassment, ethnic intimidation, retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to the complaint. Garner named his former boss, Jonathan Barnes, as a co-defendant.

Garner worked for Gerber from “early fall” of last year until his “ … constructive discharge on or about July 2016,” according to the facts of the case. He worked as a customer service representative, and was promoted twice, first to the parts department in March, then to the position of manager of that department in May. He did not, however, receive raises with the promotions; instead, he remained at his $12.50/hour hiring wage.

The lawsuit alleges white employees in similar promotion situations were given raises.

The complaint further alleges 16 instances or examples of racially motivated behavior toward Garner while employed by Gerber. In one such example, an unnamed person purportedly said to Garner, “You milk the clock like all black folks.” In another example, Garner claims he was asked, “ … whether he carried a knife, because all black folks do is stab and shoot each other.” The questioner was unnamed.

The suit seeks more than $1 million in damages.

Attorneys for both sides have until May 22, 2017, to complete discovery, according to court documents filed November 30. Parties must deliver a preliminary witness list, to the opposing party and file a copy with the court on or before December 14. Final witness lists are due by May 8, 2017.

When contacted by phone, Gerber vice president and chief human resources officer Paul J. Ruiter replied via email.

“This is a matter that is now before the courts,” Ruiter wrote. “As such, the company’s only comment will be through the legal process.

Melanie T. Frazier of the Frazier & Gebauer law firm in Southfield, Mich., is the attorney for Barnes, the former boss. She said via telephone December 5 that she has not received any information from the plaintiff.

“Obviously, my client denies everything, but at this point I have nothing from the plaintiff’s attorney and no discovery on file,” she said.

Calls to Garner’s attorneys were not returned.

To read the amended complaint, click here.

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