Hendrick Automotive Denies Ex-Employee’s Allegations of Racism

Hendrick Automotive Group filed a response denying most of the claims made against it in a lawsuit filed by a former employee, who alleged he endured racist harassment for years while working at one of the group’s stores.

The dealership group’s response, filed late Monday, pushed back against the complaint from Lance Blair, a Black man who left his job at Hendrick Toyota Concord in North Carolina in September. Blair’s lawsuit alleges that Phil St. George, a white shop foreman in the dealership’s service department, repeatedly targeted him with racist vitriol. The complaint was filed in a county court in North Carolina in February and moved to U.S. District Court in the state in April.

In its response, the dealership group agreed that Blair worked at Hendrick Toyota Concord but denied almost every other item he raised in his complaint. That denial included Blair’s allegations that Tim Hays, a white shop manager at the store, did not take seriously the concerns about St. George.

“Even if any alleged discrimination occurred, which Defendant denies, [Blair’s] claims are barred to the extent he failed to put Defendant on notice of the alleged misconduct in a timely manner, failed to take advantage of preventative or corrective opportunities provided by Defendant, and failed to provide Defendant a reasonable opportunity to stop or correct the alleged misconduct and/or to remedy the alleged harm,” Hendrick’s response said.

Blair worked at Hendrick Toyota Concord from 2012 to 2020. He said in his complaint that he began experiencing harassment in 2014 and that it became “intolerable” but went unaddressed by management.

Blair’s complaint alleges that St. George dangled whole bananas in his face, made monkey noises at him, called him a “tint meter,” referred to another Black employee as a “darkie” and showed Blair racist memes about Michelle Obama, Kobe Bryant and Colin Kaepernick.

Hendrick previously confirmed that St. George was fired from the Concord store after an investigation in October 2020 and told Automotive News that “discrimination in any form is wrong and unacceptable.”

In its response filed Monday, Hendrick partly agreed with a few details in Blair’s account — for instance, that a dealership employee named Travis Weddington met with store management in late February or early March 2020. Blair said Weddington intended to raise concerns about St. George’s taunting. Hendrick’s response denied the meeting was related to racial harassment.

The response also claimed a visit by a human resources representative requested by Blair did not happen in August or September 2020 because the representative in question, Tonda Wilsman, was receiving treatment for cancer and working remotely.

Blair’s complaint said he placed a call to Wilsman on Sept. 23 to talk about the work atmosphere but that she did not answer. Hendrick’s response said Wilsman did not answer because she was hospitalized at the time. It also claimed Blair did not leave her a message.

In his complaint, Blair said Hays called him off the dealership floor on Sept. 24 and “angrily accused him of stirring up trouble among employees” by expressing his concerns about the dealership’s racial environment.

Hendrick acknowledged the meeting occurred but refuted that it was prompted by the call to human resources. In its response, the company claimed the meeting was prompted by Vince Davis, Blair’s then-supervisor, about a “work-related mistake” made by Blair. The response also said Hays was unaware that Blair made a call to human resources.

Blair resigned that day, according to his complaint.

Hendrick’s response made numerous defense claims — including that Blair’s lawsuit should be dismissed because it improperly named Hendrick Cos. as the defendant instead of Hendrick Toyota Concord where he was employed. Hendrick Cos. is a Hendrick organization but is independent of the dealerships.

Hendrick Automotive Group asked for Blair’s lawsuit to be dismissed and for the group to be compensated for costs and legal fees.

A lawyer for Blair did not respond to Automotive News‘ request for comment by the time of publication.

Previous attempts to directly reach both St. George and Hays were unsuccessful.

Source: Hendrick Automotive denies ex-employee’s allegations of racism