Car Dealership Settles Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Suit for Over $2 Million, Training Ordered

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

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Pitre Inc., an Albuquerque car dealership on Eagle Ranch Road, has agreed to settle a same-sex sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for over $2 million and a very strong consent decree.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged a former lot manager, James Gallegos, under the direction of Charles Ratliff, Jr., then general manager, with subjecting a class of men to egregious forms of sexual harassment, including shocking sexual comments, frequent solicitations for oral sex, and regular touching, grabbing, and biting of male workers on their buttocks and genitals. The EEOC also alleged that Pitre retaliated against male employees who objected to the sexually hostile work environment. During the pendency of the lawsuit, the retaliatory actions of Pitre raised such concern that a U.S. District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction against Pitre, prohibiting the dealership and all of its agents from threatening or engaging in retaliatory actions against case participants [Docket No. 46].

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, which includes harassment of individuals of the same sex. When an employer disciplines, terminates, or takes other punitive measures against an employee for objecting to workplace discrimination, the employer further violates Title VII's anti-retaliation provision. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Pitre Inc. d.b.a. Pitre Buick/Pontiac, CIV No. 11-00875 BB/CG, in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

This case represents the largest litigation settlement in the history of the EEOC's Albuquerque Area Office. Over 50 men are expected to receive relief through the decree. In addition to the substantial monetary relief, the decree prohibits Pitre from discriminating or retaliating against its employees, and requires Pitre to have policies and practices that will provide its employees with a work environment free of sexual harassment and retaliation, evaluate their managers on their compliance with anti-discrimination laws, and hire a monitor to oversee its efforts to provide a harassment-free workplace. Pitre must also provide regular anti-discrimination training to its employees and managers, and report other discrimination complaints to the EEOC for the duration of the decree.

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