AG: Kearny car wash, detail shop sexually harassed, fired lesbian employee

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Several employees that worked for a Kearny car wash and auto detailing facility are accused of sexually harassing a lesbian colleague that worked for the facility between mid-2012 and mid-2013 before she was eventually fired, according to a complaint filed by the State Attorney General’s Office.

Photo via NJcarwash.com.
Photo via NJcarwash.com.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

In a three-count complaint filed in Essex County Superior Court on January 21, 2016, the AG’s Office alleges that two managerial employees of Kearny Auto Spa, a car wash, auto detailing and oil change facility at 946 Passaic Ave., sexually harassed a lesbian worker before firing her after less than a year on the job.

The unidentified ex-employee, who is openly lesbian, was hired as an auto detailer on July 17, 2012, responsible for waxing and drying vehicles, as well as cleaning their interior, the complaint says.

According to the complaint, her direct supervisor, Carlos Santiago, and her regional manger, Alex Stukelman, repeatedly made “unwelcome and harassing sexual comments” about the woman in front of two other employees.

Some of the unwanted dialogue allegedly included comments about the woman’s female partner, such as Santiago stating he would “take care of” her sexually, with Stukelman asking for specific details of their sex life.

One of the other employees who overheard these conversations, Sebastian Hernandez, is accused of asking the woman on at least six occasions “When are you going to take me home with you?”

Furthermore, another employee, identified only as “Richard,” allegedly asked the woman in at least two instances “When are you going to let me have sex with you?”

The woman is also said to have complained to Santiago about the unwanted sexual conversations, which warranted no action, and the facility is also said not to have provided anti-harassment or discrimination training to employees at this time, officials said.

Furthermore, the female employee was allegedly told on several occasions to work off the clock, even after her hours were cut in June 2013.

Around the same time, she was removed from auto details and was reduced to only wiping down car windows, shortly before being terminated on June 19, 2013, for allegedly going home before her shift was over, authorities said.

During the subsequent investigation by State AG’s Division on Civil Rights, Kearny Auto Spa allegedly shifted their excuse for terminating the employee to being because she did not possess the skills necessary to maintain the position.

The complaint also confirms that the former female employee is the one who filed the complaint with the Division on Civil Rights, which is why he identify is being concealed for the time being.

Kearny Auto Spa is being accused of providing a hostile work environment based on gender and sexual orientation, providing differential treatment to an employee based on their gender and subjecting an employee to retaliation for exercising their law against discrimination (LAD) rights.

Finally, the AG’s Office is asking for the awarding of lost wages, damages for mental and emotional distress and any other costs associated with the defendant’s unlawful conduct – as well as assessing punitive damages and appropriate equitable relief.

“The type of pervasive, sexually harassing workplace conduct alleged in the State’s complaint is unacceptable and, more directly on point, unlawful,” Hoffman said in a statement. “In any employment setting, workers have a right to do their jobs without being subjected to inappropriate comments, solicitations for sex, and other harassment.”

“Furthermore, employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from such harassment. Allegedly firing a worker because she reported the alleged conduct is an obvious abdication of that responsibility.”

A representative for Kearny Auto Spa could not immediately be reached at their office number this afternoon.