POUGHKEEPSIE – Two former salesmen at a Poughkeepsie car dealership have filed a federal lawsuit claiming Friendly Honda unlawfully discriminated against them by not rehiring them when it reopened in May after temporarily closing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two plaintiffs, one African American and the other Hispanic, allege that even though they were two of the top salespeople at the dealership, the company did not bring them back to work despite hiring back all of its white salespeople except one who reportedly had low sales.
The lawsuit is against Friendly Auto Group LLC, which owns Friendly Honda.
The company did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the lawsuit, filed for the men by New Paltz attorney Christopher Watkins, the plaintiffs had “greater seniority than many of the re-hired salespeople, far greater experience in auto sales, and having been among the highest-grossing salespeople.”
The court papers also allege that although the dealership has been in business since 1973, it “has a long history of not employing people of color.”
According to the lawsuit, a senior salesperson looked at the African American salesman on his first day on the job, and said, “Wow, we’ve never had any black salesmen before.”
The men also allege the company’s general manager would regularly make racist ‘jokes’ at their expense, including telling other employees to “watch their wallets” around them and holding his hands up in the air when he walked past them and saying, “I don’t have anything,” as though the two were going to rob them.
“That kind of ‘humor’ should have gone the way of Archie Bunker, and it’s disturbing that a general manager at an auto dealership in New York, in 2020, would make those kinds of racist ‘jokes’,” said Watkins. “What’s even more disturbing is that Friendly Honda would not re-hire two of its top salespeople because of the race.”