Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

March 22, 2014

Honda denies discrimination suit allegations

By Boris Ladwig Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — GREENSBURG - Honda Manufacturing of Indiana has officially denied a former employee’s allegations that it engaged in and tolerated racial discrimination.

The former employee, Clifford W. Holder, an African American, filed a lawsuit Jan. 30, alleging repeated incidents of discrimination against African Americans. Honda on Thursday filed an official response in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.

Holder, who joined Honda in 2008 and worked as an associate relations administrator, alleged the company discriminated by passing over African Americans for promotion to the benefit of white employees, punishing African American employees more harshly for inappropriate behavior than white employees and giving white employees “a slap on the wrist” for racially offensive comments.

Honda said in its response filed Thursday that it denies those allegations.

Holder also wrote in his lawsuit that “racially offensive graffiti directed at African Americans routinely appeared in the men’s restrooms” and that Honda removed the graffiti but took no actions to prevent a reoccurrence. Examples of the graffiti listed in the lawsuit include highly charged language, limericks and threats to kill, shoot and hang.

Honda said that such comments, or similar ones, appeared in restrooms, but that it removed the graffiti and denied Holder’s allegation that it took no other actions.

Honda said that “at all times (it) exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any alleged harassing behavior.”

According to the lawsuit, Holder suffered damages because he “was subjected to a hostile work environment based upon race (and that) the workplace conditions were severe and pervasive enough to alter the terms and conditions of employment.”

Holder has requested a jury trial and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Holder’s attorney, Adam Lenkowsky, with Indianapolis-based Roberts & Bishop, declined to provide details about how much Holder is seeking.

Honda said it denies all those allegations and that Holder is not entitled to damages.

Honda previously told the Daily News that it “is committed to diversity in every aspect of our business and has worked to maintain a diverse team of associates. Our operations have demonstrated an outstanding track record of success based on fundamental principles of teamwork and mutual respect. In this spirit, every Honda associate is expected to embrace and actively support diversity and the cultural richness and advantages that it provides.”

In a related filing, Holder has requested a hearing on documents in his possession, but which Honda has requested he give to the company. Holder said the documents include attendance records, photos of the graffiti from the restroom and a letter and email he wrote to other employees.

Honda said that Holder has admitted to taking documents that belong to Honda and contain confidential information and that he has not returned them despite repeated requests. “HMIN merely wants its documents back,” the company said.

Holder said in a court filing that these documents are important to his lawsuit and that if he turns them over to Honda, he fears “they will never be seen again.”

Honda said in its response that Holder “essentially accuses HMIN and HMIN’s counsel of intending to destroy documents. (Holder) has no evidence to support this claim of serious misconduct, and it goes without saying that neither HMIN nor HMIN’s counsel have any such intent.”

Judge Mark J. Dinsmore has asked that both parties appear for an initial pretrial conference at 3:20 p.m., April 16 at the U.S. Courthouse, 46 E. Ohio St., Indianapolis. The judge said that the conference can be conducted on the phone, but that attorneys for both parties should be prepared to discuss matters including the number of witnesses that may provide evidence, how exhibits will be identified and how soon the parties anticipate being in a position to discuss settlement.

Contact: Boris Ladwig 812-663-3111 x7401; boris.ladwig@greensburgdailynews.com