NASCAR says firing of race official who sued was legitimate

Updated: August 9, 2008, 12:16 PM ET
Associated Press

NASCAR denied Friday that a former official, now suing for racial discrimination and sexual harassment, ever complained to her superiors about such problems.

The former employee often referred to herself with racial stereotypes and was repeatedly reprimanded for tardiness and other behavioral issues, NASCAR said. In addition, NASCAR said the firing of Mauricia Grant last October was legitimate and not an act of discrimination or retaliation.

Diversity In NASCAR

In June, former NASCAR official Mauricia Grant filed a $225 million lawsuit against NASCAR, claiming numerous incidents of racial discrimination and sexual harassment.

Eight months before the lawsuit, NASCAR fired Grant for what was termed "poor work performance." Grant says her dismissal was retaliation for complaining to one of her supervisors about racially offensive remarks made by some fellow NASCAR employees.

Grant's allegations are documented in her lawsuit; "Outside the Lines" reporter Kelly Naqi spoke with other minorities and women who expressed similar experiences of racial discrimination and sexual harassment in NASCAR circles.

Watch: Diversity in NASCAR

The claims were part of a 29-page document filed Friday in response to Grant's $225 million lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

A former technical inspector for NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series, Grant filed suit in June alleging 23 specific incidents of sexual harassment and 34 specific incidents of racial and gender discrimination over the two-plus years she worked for NASCAR.

Her suit alleges she was fired as retaliation for complaining to her superiors about the way she was treated by co-workers.

NASCAR chairman Brian France has maintained there is no record of Grant ever reporting anything, and the response filed by the New York-based law firm Jackson Lewis LLP is consistent with his claims.

The response claims Grant acknowledged an understanding of NASCAR's "zero tolerance policy against discrimination and harassment in the workplace," attended mandatory training seminars on the topics in 2006 and 2007 and acknowledged her obligation to immediately report any offensive acts in accordance with written policies.

A request to speak to Grant and her attorney, Benedict P. Morelli, wasn't immediately granted.

Grant has insisted she did complain, and followed the chain of command all the way to Nationwide Series director Joe Balash. But she stopped short of telling human resources, Grant said, because she was reprimanded by that department for a separate incident that occurred two weeks she complained to Balash.

Grant said she viewed the reprimand, which included a threat of termination, as retaliation for complaining to Balash.

But in NASCAR's response, it claims Grant was reprimanded with a warning of termination for an altercation with a track security guard at Michigan International Speedway who had asked to see Grant's credentials as she passed through a gate.

The response does not indicate why Grant was fired, and NASCAR officials have refused to disclose the reason. But the response claims a pattern of tardiness that she was routinely reprimanded for.

NASCAR also claims several of Grant's co-workers complained about her pattern of lateness, and said it often prevented them from promptly performing their job duties. The response alleges that Grant coined the phrases "Colored People's Time" and "Mo Time" in reference to her lateness.

It's one of the few instances in the response in which NASCAR directly addresses one of Grant's claims.

In her suit, Grant said she was often told by co-workers that she worked on "colored people time."

Grant's suit also alleged she was referred to as "Nappy Headed Mo" and "Queen Sheba," was subjected to sexual advances from male co-workers, including two who allegedly exposed themselves to her, and graphic and lewd jokes.

NASCAR's has placed the two officials accused of exposing themselves, Tim Knox and Bud Moore, on paid administrative leave. A third official, David Duke, was fired in April of this year for reasons NASCAR said are unrelated to Grant's suit.

Since filing her suit, The Associated Press reviewed court documents that revealed that Grant had a restraining order filed against her in 2002 by a former boyfriend, was arrested for driving under the influence and charged last October for driving with a suspended license.

Morelli said his client doesn't deny anything in her past, but previous actions have no bearing on the suit. NASCAR maintains her past actions are a reflection on Grant's character.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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