December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Spitzer settles harassment lawsuit with employees

Spitzer Management has reached a deal with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to settle a long-running lawsuit against the car dealer over hostile working conditions based on some employees’ national origin.

The proposed consent decree still needs to be approved by U.S. District Judge John R. Adams, who earlier this year ordered Spitzer and its attorneys to pay $328,335 in legal fees to various plaintiffs in the case after the judge declared a mistrial because of concerns over documents turned over late by Spitzer’s legal team.

The agreement calls for Spitzer to pay the EEOC $100,000 plus the $49,000 in attorney fees that Adams awarded the government earlier this year. The $100,000 will be paid out to two former Spitzer employees, Toufic Hamdan and David Marek, who had argued they had been subjected to disparaging remarks while working at various Spitzer properties.

Hamdan, who was born in Lebanon, reported that he was subjected to comments about his alleged Muslim heritage, even though he isn’t actually a Muslim, according to court documents. Marek, who is of Korean national origin, also endured comments about his ethnicity.

Chris Cook, an attorney for Spitzer, said that although the company has agreed to the consent decree, which calls for Spitzer to engage in employee and management training and take other steps to prevent discrimination in the future, it isn’t admitting to any wrongdoing.

“We had to weigh the costs and the risk of going forward versus getting out of the case with what we felt was a reasonable result for all sides,” Cook said.

An EEOC lawyer declined to comment because the consent decree hasn’t won approval by the judge. The agreement allows the government to monitor Spitzer’s compliance for the next five years.

Cook also said that Spitzer is close to reaching a confidential deal with another alleged harassment victim, Hakim Nuriddin. He said that agreement, expected to be finalized next month, will see Nuriddin’s lawyers drop their sanctions request that led Adams to order Spitzer to pay legal fees of $130,415.

A similar agreement was reached in June with Dean Okafor, who had complained that he was harassed based on his Nigerian origin. Adams had ordered that Spitzer and its attorneys pay $148,920 to Okafor’s lawyers, but that award was dropped as part of the private settlement agreement, Cook said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.