‘Bad business’: Independence auto dealership will not let women sell cars, feds say

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The federal government is suing Landmark Dodge, an Independence auto dealership, over alleged civil rights violations, saying the company’s owners and managers will not allow a woman to sell a car.

The lawsuit alleges that, from May 2017 to May 2019, Landmark Dodge and Landmark South — the latter of which has since dissolved — hired only men for sales jobs and only women for office jobs.

It also says women were never offered a chance to move up from within the company to work on the sales floor.

Lawyers with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that investigates workplace discrimination, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jacqueline McKinney and Janette Barron, former human resources employees. Both women allege they were forced to quit as they faced harassment for refusing to participate in a sexist system.

Dealership owners, along with their sales managers, “regularly expressed stereotypical views” of male and female roles to the human resources managers, the complaint alleges.

Examples of that outlined by Barron and McKinney: The company’s higher-ups said gay men and women are unable to handle sales, women are not respected enough to close a sale, and training women for sales would be a waste of the company’s time.

Barron and McKinney alleged that one female job applicant was told she would be better suited for a receptionist job. Another was told women generally “sit at their desks” and that she was “the perfect height” for that role, the complaint says.

Another applicant drove an hour in for an interview and was turned away by a sales manager after it was learned she was a woman, the complaint says.

Additionally, female applicants interviewed for other jobs were typically asked sex-based questions, such as their marital status and whether they had children at home, the complaint alleges. Those questions were generally not asked of male applicants, the lawsuit says.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit says men were told they could not be hired to work in office roles, including one example where a man was told the job he wanted was strictly a “woman’s position.”

In a statement, Andrea G. Baran, an attorney for the EEOC, said: “Making hiring decisions based on sex is bad business and against the law.”

“Wise employers follow the direction of trained human resources professionals who encourage them to hire the most qualified applicants without consideration of sex or other protected status,” Baran said.

A message left by The Star with Landmark’s managers seeking comment was not returned.

With its lawsuit, the federal agency is seeking back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the two human resources employees as well as damages for applicants who were denied jobs based on their sex. It is also seeking a federal judge’s order to prevent future discrimination.