Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Woman sues NASCAR for racial, sexual harassment

Expand Messages
  • black_detroiter1
    As an aspiring racing official, Mauricia Grant had grown used to working in a man s world. When she finally made it into NASCAR, Grant was appalled at the way
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 11, 2008
      As an aspiring racing official, Mauricia Grant had grown used to
      working in a man's world.

      When she finally made it into NASCAR, Grant was appalled at the way
      she says she was treated beginning from her first day on the job until
      her firing last October.

      Now she's suing NASCAR for $225 million, alleging racial and sexual
      discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination.

      "I loved it. It was a great, exciting, adrenaline-filled job where I
      worked with fast cars and the best drivers in the world," Grant told
      The Associated Press. "But there was an ongoing daily pattern (of
      harassment). It was the nature of the people I worked with, the people
      who ran it, it trickled down from the top.

      "It's just the way things are in the garage."

      The 32-year-old Grant, who is black, worked as a technical inspector
      responsible for certifying cars in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide
      Series from January 2005 until her termination. In the lawsuit, she
      alleged she was referred to as "Nappy Headed Mo" and "Queen Sheba," by
      co-workers, was often told she worked on "colored people time," and
      was frightened by one official who routinely made references to the Ku
      Klux Klan.

      In addition, Grant said she was subjected to sexual advances from male
      co-workers, two of whom allegedly exposed themselves to her, and
      graphic and lewd jokes.

      The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern
      District of New York, lists 23 specific incidents of alleged sexual
      harassment and 34 specific incidents of alleged racial and gender
      discrimination beginning when she was hired in January 2005 through
      her October 2007 firing.

      NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said the organization had not yet
      reviewed the suit.

      "As an equal opportunity employer, NASCAR is fully committed to the
      spirit and letter of affirmative action law," Poston said, adding
      NASCAR has a zero tolerance policy for harassment.

      In the lawsuit, Grant said she complained numerous times to her
      supervisors about how she was treated, to no avail. On one occasion,
      Grant said Nationwide Series director Joe Balash, her immediate
      supervisor, was dismissive of her complaints, explaining her
      co-workers were "former military guys" with a rough sense of humor.
      "You just have to deal with it," she says Balash told her.

      On another occasion, she alleged Balash participated in the harassment.

      "Does your workout include an urban obstacle course with a flat-screen
      TV on your back?" she claimed Balash asked her during the week of July
      28, 2007 while working in Indianapolis.

      Grant told the AP her two younger sisters witnessed racial
      discrimination against the official while visiting her at Daytona
      International Speedway in 2006 and encouraged her to document every
      incident going forward.

      The lawsuit details a series of those alleged incidents:

      — Grant was forced to work outside more often than the white male
      officials because her supervisors believed she couldn't sunburn
      because she was black.

      — While riding in the backseat of her car pool at Talladega
      Superspeedway, co-workers told her to duck as they passed race fans.
      "I don't want to start a riot when these fans see a black woman in my
      car," she claims one official said.

      — When packing up a dark garage at Texas Motor Speedway an official
      told Grant: "Keep smiling and pop your eyes out `cause we can't see you."

      — When she ignored advances from co-workers, Grant was accused of
      being gay. She also claimed co-workers questioned the sexual
      orientation of two other female officials.

      After her termination, Grant said she went over her notes and
      recognized "a pattern of retaliation and discrimination."

      "It didn't diminish my love for the sport of auto racing, but the job
      wasn't always the easiest thing to go to every day," she said.

      Grant said she routinely complained to her supervisors. Two weeks
      after her final complaint, Grant said she was warned during the week
      of August 18, 2007 at Michigan International Speedway that she had
      engaged in "conduct unbecoming of a NASCAR representative" and would
      be fired unless she changed her behavior. She said the warning stemmed
      from a confrontation with a track official who stopped her as she
      passed through a gate to use the restroom.

      Roughly two months later, Grant was fired, and NASCAR cited a poor
      work performance in ending her employment. The lawsuit claims other
      than a previous warning for using "street" language, Grant had never
      been disciplined for job performance and routinely received positive

      "It is time for NASCAR to realize that not everbody is going to be
      bought off and not file a complaint," said Grant's attorney, Benedict
      P. Morelli of Morelli Ratner PC. "Not everybody is going to be
      intimidated and not file a complaint. Not everybody is going to be
      blackballed and not file a complaint."

      In addition, the suit claims official Heather Gambino was fired in
      2006 for complaining about a sexually hostile work environment. The
      suit also claims former official Dean Duckett, who is black, was
      reprimanded and ultimately fired last November for using "aggressive
      language toward a white co-worker."

      Among those identified in Grant's suit are Balash, assistant series
      director Mike Dolan, supervisors Alan Shephard and Dennis Dillon,
      NASCAR's senior manager for business relations, the human resources
      director and 17 of Grant's fellow officials. All of the defendants are

      "My supervisors all praised me. I was hanging in there with the guys,"
      she said. "I am an athletic person. I went over the wall and faced
      malicious crews and competitive crew chiefs, and I was right there and
      held it down and was never lazy about it.

      "And I knew that once I was terminated, there wasn't going to be an
      opportunity for me to find another industry like NASCAR to practice my
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.