Federal EEOC sues auto dealer, claims employee created sexually hostile work environment

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A new sexual harassment lawsuit has been filed against James Auto Management LLC regarding a general manager accused of creating a sexually hostile work environment, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in the Western District of New York and is focused around the general manager’s employment at a dealership in Hamburg in Erie County, near Buffalo, authorities said. The general manager also worked at dealerships in Rome and Greece in Monroe County, all for James Auto Management, officials stated.

“Employers who are aware of sexual harassment in the workplace have a legal obligation to quickly end it,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office.

“The EEOC will continue to take action against businesses who fail to protect their employees from unlawful harassment.”

According to the lawsuit, Steven Kupiec was general manager of the Hamburg dealership, and he made numerous unwelcome sexual advances and comments to two female employees. The lawsuit claims Kupiec would stare at the women and make comments about their bodies, along with asking them to join him in his hotel room, miming sexual acts in front of them and commenting how he’d imagined waking up next to one of them in bed.

The lawsuit claims that Kupiec also stood behind one of the women and rubbed her shoulders on more than one occasion, with other employees around.

The harassment occurred over the course of several months in 2018, according to the lawsuit. The EEOC said that Kupiec’s behavior was well-known throughout the dealership, including by the vice president of human resources, who witnessed and encouraged the behavior. The lawsuit said that one of the women was forced to quit because the dealership did nothing to stop the harassment.

The EEOC stated that they first attempted to settle the matter through the agency’s conciliation process. They said they are seeking compensation and punitive damages for both employees, along with back pay for the employee who was forced to resign.

James Auto Management, including James Cars of Hamburg and James Mitsubishi Hamburg, is owned by James Provenzano. Attempts to reach James Auto Management for comment were unsuccessful.

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