CONCORD -- Seven former and current employees have sued an auto dealership, alleging wage theft and a hostile work environment where they were berated with racist and sexist slurs.
In a lawsuit filed April 24 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the plaintiffs allege Lexus of Concord made employees pay state and federal taxes on inflated wages they weren't paid, retaliated against employees who complained and wrongfully terminated two of them. The lawsuit further claims one defendant regularly used racial and gender epithets to describe dealership employees and customers.
The lawsuit seeks lost wages, $3 million in compensatory damages for each of the seven plaintiffs and $21 million in punitive damages.
"We feel that it is just un-American to have to work in an environment that is just saturated with racist, homophobic and women-hating comments," said Charles Bonner, attorney for the plaintiffs.
Attorney Christine Long, who represents Lexus of Concord owner Hank Torian and General Manager Greg James, confirmed a third defendant -- Patrick Miliano -- no longer works at the dealership, but declined to say whether Miliano was fired from his job as the general sales manager.
The lawsuit also claims Miliano, who allegedly brought guns and knives to work, threatened to kill three employees and their families. On Tuesday, a California Superior Court judge issued a restraining order against Miliano, who could not be reached for comment.
In an email, Long said Lexus of Concord learned of the plaintiffs' claims about working conditions at the dealership in early April.
"Lexus of Concord is currently investigating all of the claims made in the complaint and will appropriately handle the matter within the dealership and the courts," Long wrote.
The lawsuit alleges Miliano ran a "voucher wage scheme" tied to the dealership's program of cash bonuses to reward employees for selling vehicles. Miliano allegedly submitted fraudulent vouchers that reflected a bigger bonus than the employees earned and pocketed the difference in cash. However, employees were paying state and federal income taxes on the inflated amount because it was reported as income, the lawsuit claims.
Amanda Bo Denton was the Internet manager at Lexus of Concord for eight months before being fired in February. She said she raised paycheck concerns to Miliano and James in November.
"The more that I would rebel against the bad behavior, the more I would get penalized" by losing days off and having her schedule changed several times, Denton said.
Two other plaintiffs, Robert Brock and Kamal Dayekh, were demoted and fired, respectively, after alerting management to the alleged voucher scheme, the suit says.
Regarding the alleged voucher scheme, "Lexus of Concord immediately began investigating the complaints when they were reported and had put in place a mechanism to audit the records to determine whether or not such a scheme impacted any employee," Long wrote.