My husband worked for Sam Swope Auto Group for over four years. I have thought long and hard about the best way to convey, on this site, what my husband endured during the time he worked there, so instead of me telling his story in book fashion, I'm going to outline what was done to him and include some photos for effect. Anyone who wants to find out more can visit my dot com website at CorporateRacism for the complete story.
This is about corporate racism, bigotry, bullying, discrimination and hate crimes being committed in the workplace. Corporations are ignoring and, in some cases, condoning this behavior and then concealing it under the cover of an arbitration agreement which effectively muzzles the employee and forces him/her into a mediation where the corporation largely has the upper hand and the general public never finds out about the behavior of the corporation. [continued below]....
..... Very convenient for the corporation, wouldn't you agree?
I want to introduce you to the REAL Sam Swope Auto Group, whose executives are the proverbial turds in the sandbox of Louisville, Kentucky. This is one example of a corporation assuming it is entitled to do whatever to whomever so long as an arbitration agreement is in place to conceal their actions. At least one of their executives likes to brag about how deep Sam Swopes pockets are to anyone looking to take this company to task for their outrageous behavior. This approach has apparently worked well for them until now.
Sam Swope Auto Group is the largest car dealership in Kentucky. Their corporate mantra is, No one walks away because everybody saves. This is patently false. They have a program called the "Advantage Plan" for people with less than perfect credit. If you are a person of Hispanic decent and you dont speak English, they will reject your business or they will discourage you from purchasing a car there because youre Spanish even if you were born and raised in this country or even if you speak perfect English. My husband actually witnessed these things happen on a pretty regular basis.
Sam Swope Auto Group is a major sponsor of anything and everything that goes on in Louisville. Their television ads run non-stop. Everywhere you look in Louisville, you will find their name. They have successfully branded themselves and have carefully, methodically and strategically crafted their image. Their name is untainted in the community, with only a hushed whisper here or there of something but then the whisper is gone and there is silence.
Not this time. My voice is the whisper that will grow into a roar and it will be joined by the voices of others who hate social injustice, corporate racists, bigots, bullies and those who hate and discriminate against others. Social media has given the little people a platform and basically leveled the playing field and brought about this little phenomenon called social justice for those corporations who dont play nice and smart corporations know this. Experienced corporations have taken into consideration the fact that their actions ALL OF THEM can and will be scrutinized by a savvy new consumer who is socially conscious.
The rich old men in corporate America still havent caught on to the fact that they no longer control who knows about or hears about what they do. We, the people, have wrenched that control away from them. Sam Swope Auto Group may have silenced my husband, but they will not silence me. I will be his voice and I will tell his story our story. They may have been able to dodge the proverbial bullet in a court of law because they hid behind their arbitration agreement, but in the court of public opinion I believe they will be crucified because their own actions will scream louder than any words they can ever say.
This is my husband's story.
- My husband was hired by Sam Swope in November 2007 to work as an Account Manager.
- His position consisted of managing the accounts of customers who financed their vehicle purchases through Sam Swopes internal financing company, General Acceptance.
- Marsha Coulter, who is African-American, was my husband's direct supervisor during his employment with Sam Swope.
- My husband is Hispanic and immigrated from Cuba over 30 years ago.
- During the course of his employment with Sam Swope, my husband was the only Hispanic employee out of 800+ employees.
- From the beginning of his employment, my husband was discriminated against and subjected to demeaning comments regarding his ethnicity, including but not limited to the following:
- Marsha Coulter prohibited my husband from going to lunch with co-workers, while she and others regularly lunched together.
- To log on to his computer, my husband had to type in his first name, Jose, and then his assigned password, CYS. When my husband asked Dan Rivard (Marsha Coulter's supervisor) what CYS stood for, Rivard told him that it stood for Can You See, because of the joke about a Mexican guy.
- Dan Rivard implied that because my husband was Hispanic that he would go home and beat me.
- Marsha Coulter and other employees would regularly pretend that they couldnt understand my husband, and would demand that he speak English" when he spoke perfect English.
- There were certain employees who would mock my husband and call him "Carlos" or "Fernando" when they knew his name was Jose.
- In addition to the discriminatory conduct directed toward my husband, Sam Swope discriminated against Hispanic customers, as demonstrated by the following:
- Dan Rivard advised my husband that in order to purchase a car, the customer had to speak English. Rivard told my husband that the policy had been in place for over 17 years.
- The ethnicity of certain Hispanic customers is noted on their accounts.
- Marsha Coulter prohibited my husband from speaking to customers in Spanish.
- Marsha Coulter repeatedly reminded my husband, sometimes in front of Hispanic customers, that non-English speaking Hispanic customers could not purchase vehicles from Sam Swope.
- On one occasion, a Hispanic customer paid off the balance of his vehicle following an accident. Normally the balance is rolled into another vehicle. The Hispanic customer however was told he would need to pay an additional $500. When he produced the $500, he was told that he needed to pay $1000. When the customer produced the $1,000, Coulter then invoked the no sales to Spanish speakers rule and refused to sell him another car.
- On another occasion, Marsha Coulter instructed an employee to take a Hispanic customers car payment and apply it to the account of the customers co-signer because the co-signers account was past due. Coulter then deferred the payment to the end of the Hispanic customers loan so that the customer would not realize his payment had been misappropriated.
- Employees working under Marsha Coulter were treated differently based upon their race, as demonstrated by the following:
- During my husband's employment, only one African American employee was terminated after several incidents of cash shortages. In contrast, Marsha Coulter wrote up, suspended, and terminated Caucasian employees for a variety of sometimes minor infractions.
- Marsha Coulter told employees that Caucasians cannot separate their private lives from their professional lives.
- Marsha Coulter permitted African-American employees to come in late, leave early, and avoid unpopular tasks. In contrast, Caucasian employees were held to strict standards.
- On numerous occasions, African American employees would go on shopping trips during lunch with Marsha Coulter lasting 2 2 1/2 hours, and were paid for a full days work. Caucasian employees were limited to one hour for lunch.
- One African-American employee was well-known for stealing money, CDs, and other items left in customers repossessed vehicles, but was never disciplined. Instead, she was promoted.
- This same employee announced to a Caucasian coworker, Since Im the second head ni#@er in charge, I have to ask you how come youre not working?
- In one short period, a Caucasian employee was suspended for three days for missing work due to a childs illness, while an African-American employee who walked off the job in the middle of a work day and did not call or show up for 3 days was not disciplined in any way.
- In early 2008, management advised my husband that he would be receiving a promotion. Various supervisors, including Marsha Coulter, told my husband that he would be getting promoted soon on numerous occasions over the course of the following year and a half.
- As a result of these assurances, my husband turned down other job opportunities.
- On one occasion, Marsha Coulter told my husband to Go home and tell your wife you are going to be promoted.
- The very next day, Marsha Coulter told my husband that he would not be promoted because he was not a good employee.
- In December 2008, my husband requested a reassignment due to the mistreatment he received from Coulter. His request was denied.
- Following my husbands request for reassignment, Marsha Coulter engaged in the following retaliatory acts:
- Two days after my husband requested a transfer, Marsha Coulter went through his accounts. In several accounts, Coulter entered false notations that certain tasks had not been completed when there were notes showing the tasks had, in fact, been completed.
- Marsha Coulter gave my husband a written reprimand for failing to complete the tasks that he had completed. When my husband refused to sign it, Coulter contacted Ken Gelley (Head of Human Resources). Ken Gelley demanded that my husband sign the written reprimand. My husband still refused and told him that he was preparing a formal complaint regarding his treatment. Gelley and Rivard sent my husband home with instructions not to return to work until he had his complaint completed.
- Marsha Coulter required my husband to get her coffee, and fetch her purse.
- Marsha Coulter required my husbands co-workers to send him emails asking him to stop doing things he had never done.
- Marsha Coulter flew into a rage and screamed at my husband in front of other employees for taking his lunch at his regularly scheduled lunch hour.
- Marsha Coulter told her superiors and my husband's co-workers that he was the lowest performing employee, when in fact he was the highest.
- Marsha Coulter prohibited my husband from using the restroom during his two-hour power hour shift.
- Marsha Coulter prohibited my husband from locking his computer, so that she could look at his computer whenever she wanted - even though the policy was for everyone to lock their computers. Everyone was allowed to lock their computer except for my husband.
- My husband was required to arrive at work 10 minutes early, and not permitted to clock in until his computer was booted up. No other employee was required to wait before clocking in.
- In March 2009, Marsha Coulter gave my husband his first negative performance review. This review contained demonstrably false accusations about my husband's performance. Coulter refused to provide my husband with a copy of the evaluation.
- Marsha Coulter would say good morning to African American employees, but refused to greet my husband. When he greeted her on one occasion, she flew into a rage.
- Marsha Coulter prohibited my husband from eating at his desk, although all the other employees were allowed to do so. To enforce her edict, she trained surveillance cameras on my husband's desk (photos attached). Coulter would then send periodic emails to my husband, saying simply, I am watching.
- My husband was the only Spanish-speaking employee at General Acceptance, and would occasionally be asked by other managers to speak to Spanish-speaking customers. On those occasions, Coulter would verbally reprimand my husband for violating her no Spanish policy. New employees were told by Coulter that my husband was not allowed to speak Spanish in the office or to translate for anyone.
- On one occasion, my husband received a call from a relative in Cuba to tell him that his brother had died. My husband was crying when he got off the phone. Coulter, who heard him speaking Spanish and had come over to reprimand him said, you know better than that.
- In July 2009, after my husband filed this written complaint regarding the above conduct to the Human Resources Department of Sam Swope, Ken Gelley told my husband, You will never be promoted after this.
- Despite the fact that my husband consistently out-performed his peers during his four years of employment, he was never promoted, nor did he receive any raises.
- On July 20, 2009, attorneys representing General Acceptance sent my husband a certified letter demanding that he turn over all documents in his possession regarding his Human Resources complaint, and destroy any copies.
- Following his complaint, co-workers who were seen talking to my husband would be questioned by Dan Rivard about the content of their conversations.
- In 2010, Marsha Coulter hired a family friend, Jinie Choi, to work in the department.
- Choi immediately began to engage in inappropriate behavior towards my husband, including:
- Rubbing his neck and back
- Writing her name with a heart on his things.
- Hugging him.
- Lurking around corners in order to walk with him.
- Parking her car next to his car.
- Regularly waiting until my husband left work so that she could walk to the car at the same time.
- The harassment was so open that my husband's other coworkers became upset about the behavior.
- My husband reported the inappropriate behavior to Coulter, but Coulter refused to take any corrective action; instead, Coulter changed Chois schedule so that she worked more days with my husband.
- In January 2011, my husband began suffering panic attacks.
- In the beginning, we thought the panic attacks were heart attacks.
- The first panic attack my husband had at work, Coulter asked another employee to take him off company property.My husband could not breathe, he was grabbing his chest and gagging. This employee drove my husband to his car and left him there without seeking any medical attention for him, no one called 911. The implications of their actions are unspeakably evil.
- The panic attacks continued, resulting in many trips to the emergency room.
- In December 2011, my husband suffered a complete nervous breakdown. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for two months and diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression.
- On March 28, 2012, my husband resigned from his position at Sam Swope.
In March of 2012, we sold much of what we owned so we could move away from Louisville, KY. It was my hope that this move would enable my husband to recover from his ordeal and get his life back. Once we settled in, we sent a complaint to Sam Swope Auto Group executives d**k Swope and Patti Swope, outlining everything that had taken place and asking them to hold people accountable and do the right thing. We sent documents and photos as evidence. We gave them every chance to do the right thing, and they refused. We hired an attorney in August of 2012. In December of 2012 we attended a mediation hearing where it became very clear because they held the advantage (read: had a lot more money than us) and they treated everyone at the mediation with an outrageous degree of contempt that they had no intention of trying to do anything right.
Because of my husband's fragile emotional condition, and the financial position we had been placed in by this company (we owe nearly $60,000 in medical bills related to his employment with them) and we didn't have unlimited funds to keep traveling back and forth over 2,000 miles and take time off work to do it -- we had no choice but to settle for what they were offering. The bottom line is that we walked away with probably less money than what d**k Swope spends to go on vacation -- and no where near what we needed to take care of his medical bills. My husband signed a settlement and non-disparagement agreement and we went back home.
So, here's the deal. I didn't sign an arbitration agreement. I didn't sign a settlement or non-disparagement agreement. I am my own person -- and I am going after these people in the court of public opinion. What happened to my husband didn't just affect him, it didn't just affect me. It affected our little girl. No child should have to think their daddy is dying in front of their eyes.
I want to hold these people accountable. I don't want them to be able to do it to someone else. Louisville, Kentucky has a very large Hispanic community who is unaware of what these people have been doing and what their policies and attitudes are towards Hispanics. And I think that Americans who are every other nationality should care. We, as a society, HAVE to care about how others are treated. It might not be you today, but it might be you or a loved one tomorrow. Racism, bigory, discrimination and hate are not okay just because they're not being directed at you. We should collectively hold those accountable who engage in this type of behavior.
If you would like to pass along any comments to Sam Swope Auto Groups management, Ive provided their contact information below:
Marsha Coulter email: email@example.com 502-499-4637 (work) 502-810-7707 (Cell) (502) 968-0061 and (502) 356-1745 Home Address: 10120 Winding River Way Louisville, KY 40229
Dan Rivard email: firstname.lastname@example.org 502-499-3729 (work) Home Address: 1102 Marquis Trce Louisville, KY 40223
Ken Gelley email: email@example.com 502-499-3763 (work) 502-499-3893 (fax) Home Address: 4035 Mulberry Row Way, Louisville, KY 40299
Doug Radcliff email: firstname.lastname@example.org 502-499-5023 Home Address: 1814 Ashfield Ln. Louisville, KY 40220
Mike Sanderson email: email@example.com 502-499-5000 7907 Rollington Rd Pewee Valley, KY 40056
d**k Swope email: firstname.lastname@example.org 502-499-5000 3900 Eagle Way, Prospect, KY 40059