Ex-employees say Olathe car dealership retaliated against them for reporting fraud

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The former controller and a human resource specialist have each filed a lawsuit against Robert Brogden’s Olathe Buick GMC dealership saying they were retaliated against and their jobs wrongfully terminated for reporting financial fraud.

Lynda Cole, 62, of Edgerton, and Brooke Nemechek, 21, of Lawrence, filed separate lawsuits last week in Johnson County District Court against the dealership and its owner, Robert Brogden.

Both suits say that the dealership’s general manager had created a hostile work environment and that the dealership’s upper management took no corrective measures or actions.

They also contend that when they reported financial fraud and other illegal activity by the general manager, he retaliated and they were wrongly fired or forced to resign.

An attorney for the dealership was not immediately available for comment Monday.

The lawsuits are the latest filed against the dealership over an alleged hostile work environment there.

In late May, Jude Boliere , a 60-year-old Black man from Olathe, sued the dealership alleging that in his eight months at the dealership, he faced discrimination because of his race and age and retaliation for reporting it. Boliere contends that racial slurs were being “thrown around so liberally” at his workplace but the dealership did nothing to address the harassment.

That case has been removed to federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, and the dealership has denied any wrong doing, according to court filings.

Verbal and emotional abuse reported

According to the new lawsuits, Cole worked as controller for Brogden’s two dealerships in Olathe and one in Hays, Kansas, between August 2015 and October 2021. Meanwhile, Nemechek, who started working for the defendants in August 2017, served as a human resources specialist when she was forced to resign in November 2021.

Cole, who had worked with the general manager at a different dealership, warned Brogden and the dealerships’ upper management when they promoted him to general manager of Robert Brogden’s Olathe Buick GMC in January 2020.

When the general manager learned of the email, he became confrontational and angrily berated Cole in front a member of the dealership’s upper management, who sat quietly and allowed the abuse to continue unabated, according to the lawsuit.

Cole said that soon after the general manager took charge of the dealership, she witnessed and received reports of the general manager verbally and emotionally abusing other employees, particularly Black and female workers.

Each time Cole witnessed abuse or it was reported to her, she reported it to the dealership’s upper management. The general manager also allegedly used illegal drugs at the dealership, which she reported to management as well, according to the suit.

Theft of cash, altered contracts alleged

As her role of controller, Cole “learned first-hand” that the general manager would allegedly steal cash deposits. When asked where the down payment money was, the general manager would blame others and instruct Cole to “just write it off.”

Cole reported each incident to the dealership’s management, who assured her that everything was being reported to Brogden.

Sometime in 2021, the general manager told Cole that he “didn’t like to fire anyone but preferred instead to just make them so miserable through abuse and unrealistic workload that they would choose to quit.”

Among other allegations in her suit, Cole contends that the general manager allegedly was diverting her and other employee’s bonuses and commissions to himself in an ongoing wage theft scheme, according to the suit.

She also contends that the general manager promoted an employee friend to work in the finance department despite not having any prior experience in finance. The employee was moved to Kia store to work in the finance department.

Cole contends that at the direction of the general manager, the employee allegedly would alter contracts after customers left with their vehicles by adding such things as extended service contracts and gap policies without the customers’ consent. The employee allegedly would forge customers’ signatures on the new documents.

Cole contends that that practice became so routine and rampant that an employee’s daughter was victimized. Upon learning about the illegal and fraudulent practices, she reported them to the dealership’s management.

‘Making us money’

In September 2021, Cole became ill. Soon thereafter, her father became ill and needed care. She was forced to take six weeks of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. While away, the general manager broke into her office, telling an employee who witnessed it that he wanted to see if Cole had “any dirt on him.”

Upon learning that her office had been broken into, she sent an email to the dealership’s upper management expressing her objections. In an email response, which she received on the same day of her father’s death, the dealership said they would accept her resignation.

Cole called a member of the dealership’s management team and told him that she wasn’t resigning. That person, however, told Cole that it was his decision to terminate her because of her complaints about the general manager’s conduct and behavior.

The member of the management team allegedly said the general manager “is making us money — that is what is important.”

‘Deal with it’

The allegations in Nemechek’s lawsuit are similar. She contends that the general manager verbally abused, harassed, intimidate and bullied her. She described the general manager’s behavior as crude and routinely abusive towards her. Because she was under constant attack and threat, she did not feel safe at work, according to the suit.

Nemechek said that she reported instances of abusive and threatening behavior to her supervisor and management, but the dealership took no corrective actions. Instead, the dealership and general manager retaliated against her, according to the suit.

Nemechek later became aware of instances where the general manager, with cooperation of the financial officer, allegedly fraudulently added provisions to financial agreements and forged customers’ signatures on those agreements, according to the suit.

Nemechek said she reported the suspected fraud and illegal activity to her supervisor and manager but the dealership did not take any action to investigate the allegations. The general manager, however, intensified his threats and abusive behavior towards her, according to the suit.

When she complained about the added threats and abuse, she was told “to just deal with it,” according to the suit.

Nemechek contends the dealership and its owner allowed him to continue to harass, intimidate, threat and bully her in the hopes that she would quit. Because she felt mentally and physically threatened, she was forced to quit her job in November 2021, according to the suit.

Cole and Nemechek both are seeking more than $75,0000 in damages alleging whistleblower retaliation, wrongful termination, negligence and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Cole also alleges the dealership failed to failure to pay wages.