CFO of Oregon City Subaru dealership sues ex-boss, alleging he shared racist remarks and text messages with staff


The chief financial officer of a Subaru dealership in Oregon City has filed a federal lawsuit against the dealership’s former general manager, accusing him of sharing highly offensive and racist information. remarks and texts with other employees.

The lawsuit alleges Lithia SOC, doing business as Lithia Subaru of Oregon City, and its employees engaged in racial discrimination and subjected CFO Tobias Ray, who is black, to a hostile work environment and retaliate by taking steps to ostracize him from other employees and jeopardize his success.

Attorney Todd A. Hanchett, representing Lithia Subaru, released a statement from the Oregon City dealership in response: “Oregon City Subaru strives to maintain a work environment that is free from harassment or discrimination and in which people are treated with dignity and respect. Since litigation has been initiated, the company cannot comment on the allegations in the case, but Oregon City Subaru takes these allegations seriously.

Tony Jiminez, who served as the dealership’s general manager in the summer of 2020, texted a sexually suggestive and racially insensitive photo to some employees shortly after the May 25, 2020 killing of George Floyd was videotaped , according to the lawsuit. Floyd, a black man, died when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.

The photo shared on June 15, 2020 showed a naked white man from the chest up lying on a naked black woman’s lap, her breasts hiding her face, with the caption: “This white man can’t (sic) breathe . But you won’t see that on the news. In the lower left corner of the messaging icon was the Subaru emblem, according to the suit.

Also that month, Ray found a racially offensive drawing on a whiteboard in the dealership’s break room that featured a stick figure with an afro hairstyle and a caption that read “I love watermelon,” according to the costume. The whiteboard could be seen by all employees, Ray noted.

The following month, Ray discovered other derogatory text messages that Jimenez had shared with the dealership’s general sales manager, Corey Fay, and Lithia sales manager, Ryan Vaughan, mocking Ray’s casual attire during from a visit he made to the dealership on his day off. according the suit.

Jimenez compared Ray’s outfit to that of the movie “New Jack City,” which features a cast of black actors, and Vaughn made a disparaging remark suggesting that if the lights were out in Ray’s office, he wouldn’t be seen in the dark. , depending on the suit.

In August 2020, Jimenez engaged in racist stereotyping, according to the lawsuit, when he asked Ray to handle financing for a client named Rodney King and suggested that Ray ask the client, “Can’t- don’t we all get along? Jimenez then asked Ray if the client seemed “slow” and suggested the client had been “hit in the head with a club one too many times,” according to the suit.

Rodney Glen King, a black man, was the victim of police brutality in Los Angeles in March 1991. King was savagely beaten by police officers who repeatedly kicked him and hit him with truncheons during his arrest after a high-speed chase. The arrest was filmed by an observer.

Ray filed a written complaint with his employer on Oct. 30, 2020, and participated in an internal investigation that determined his complaints were founded, according to the suit.

But while Lithia provided new diversity awareness training for staff, it did not discipline Jimenez or thwart other acts of racial discrimination, according to the lawsuit.

Jimenez no longer works at the dealership; the circumstances of his departure are unclear. Jimenez did not return messages seeking comment.

Ray has worked as the dealership’s chief financial officer since October 2018 and remains employed at the dealership, according to his attorneys, Brian L. Dolman and Erin Norgaard, of Seattle.

He is seeking unspecified damages for loss of income, loss of advancement and emotional distress in the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland.

–Maxine Bernstein

Email mernstein@oregonian.com; 503-221-8212

Follow on Twitter @maxoregonian

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