Former Mercedes Worker Files Suit Against Dealership for Discrimination

A former employee of a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Indiana has filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that he was fired in retaliation for complaining about racial discrimination he faced in the workplace.

In a lawsuit filed on October 8 in the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Jeffrey Turner stated he had worked for Mercedes Benz since the 1980s and was the only Black employee at the Mercedes-Benz of Lafayette dealership in Indiana, where he worked for Raisor Auto Group.

The complaint viewed by The North Star states that Turner, who was a sales manager at the company, said that Mike Raisor, the owner, boasted that the company was “[n-word] scalping” Black customers, meaning the company was “systematically overcharging African American customers based on race.”

The suit also states that Turner was “subjected to unwelcome verbal harassment on a regular basis” when Raisor called him his “favorite [n-word]” in a room full of people where Turner was the only Black person. Raisor’s brother and another owner of the company, Bret Raisor, also told a room full of people, “Turner will disappear if the lights go off, and directing Turner to smile, where Turner was the only African American present.” Turner also said Bret would target his anger at him over unrelated racial issues.

"For example, the lawsuit alleges that one of the principle owners of Mercedes-Benz of Lafayette lashed out at Turner about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, the protest of police brutality led by Colin Kaepernick that sparked widespread debate. The owner unleashed his anger and frustration during an official dealership meeting in a series of offensive comments directed at Turner, the only African American employee in a full room," the press release from Turner’s attorney obtained by RTV6 states.

Turner states in the suit that he complained to the company about Raisor’s behavior and his use of the racial slur multiple times. After complaining about racial discrimination, he asked for the company to comment on the allegations. On October 9, 2017, Turner attended an official meeting with the company where Bret accused him of “running his mouth” and told Turner to leave the meeting. Turner was fired that same day for insubordination, according to the lawsuit.

“Turner denies he was ever insubordinate and believes he was terminated because of his race and because he complained to [Mercedes Benz of North America] about being discriminated against because of his race,” the lawsuit states.

The suit alleges that “a less or similarly qualified white candidate” replaced Turner. "Despite twice honoring Turner as the 'Best of the Best,' an esteemed annual award that recognized his outstanding performance, Mercedes-Benz quickly lowered his commission, then told him to leave and not come back. Turner was replaced with a less or similarly qualified white candidate," the press release obtained by RTV6 states.

Turner is seeking damages and a trial by jury, according to the lawsuit. In a statement to WTTV, Turner’s attorneys said the corporate attorney for Raisor Auto Group and Mercedes Benz of Lafayette, John R. Gambs, states that Raisor did not use the offensive phrase in question.

“In a letter, Gambs denies that Mike Raisor used the phrase ‘[n-word] scalping,’ and instead claims that he used the phrase ‘a [n-word] in the woodpile.’ According to Gambs, Turner went to another sales manager for advice after Raisor’s derogatory comment. He told Turner that even though Raisor’s comment was ‘inappropriate,’ Turner shouldn’t take offense because Raisor was just ‘raised in a different generation,’” the statement to the news station read.

Earlier this month, several employees from an auto repair shop in Illinois were fired after multiple racist videos were found on social media. The videos, originally posted to Snapchat on September 27, show three employees from the Sooper Lube auto shop in Joilet, Illinois making racist remarks about immigrants and a Black employee.

“Illegal immigrants are people too, what do you have to say to them?” one employee can be heard asking another worker.

“No the [expletive] they’re not,” the worker responded.

Ernest Crim III, a social studies teacher at Joliet Central High School and a community activist, discovered the offensive videos. In a Facebook post, Crim wrote that he told Chuck Nolan, the manager of the auto shop, who assured Crim the employees would be fired. Nolan confirmed in a Facebook post on September 30 that the workers were fired as soon as he learned about the racist videos.

“This video in no way reflects the opinions and values of this company,” Nolan previously wrote. “Those employees involved were immediately terminated on [September 30] when I learned of the existence of this video. I was not present when the video was being created and I took immediate action upon discovery. We are taking internal measures to ensure that this type of conduct does not occur in the future.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.