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Fired employee sues Larson Motors over ‘Tommy Boy’ insult, ethnic slurs

Greg Corliss, seen here with his children, is suing Larson Motors Inc. for fostering a discriminatory workplace. The lawsuit is in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.
Greg Corliss, seen here with his children, is suing Larson Motors Inc. for fostering a discriminatory workplace. The lawsuit is in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Courtesy

A former employee is suing Larson Power Boats/Sports Northwest, alleging he was fired for complaining about being called derogatory names and racial slurs.

Greg Corliss of Lake Tapps sued in U.S. District Court in Tacoma in April, seeking damages for wage loss, lost profit and emotional distress after being fired from his job as a boat salesman at the Fife dealership.

Corliss says he was fired in retaliation for filing a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission.

Corliss, 54, alleges his supervisor treated him with disrespect from the day he started the job, including:

▪ Calling him “Tommy Boy” after the clumsy, portly titular character of a 1995 Chris Farley movie.

▪ Referring to him with a racial slur, even though he is white.

▪ Making persistent sexual comments.

▪ Forcing him to watch the rape scene from the movie “Deliverance.”

“It doesn’t feel good to be called names at work,” said Corliss, who worked for Larson from April to July 2013. “It’s just not right.”

In a response to Corliss’ lawsuit, lawyers for Larson Motors Inc., the parent company of Larson Power Sports, denied any wrongdoing, though they admitted the “Tommy Boy” nickname was used.

“The case is completely meritless and we will defend it in the proper forum, which is the court system,” Gregory Hendershott, an attorney representing Larson Motors, wrote in an email.

In 2001, Larson Motors settled another EEOC lawsuit, paying $1.8 million for subjecting black employees to persistent racial harassment, including referring to workers with racial slurs or calling them “boy.”

In that settlement, Larson Motors agreed to a zero-tolerance policy for racial harassment and discrimination.

After Corliss’ EEOC complaint, his co-workers told the commission’s investigator his manager often used racial slurs toward blacks and Asians, made sexually charged comments, showed Corliss and others the rape scene from “Deliverance” and picked on Corliss specifically.

Based on the EEOC complaint, a state unemployment claims adjustor allowed Corliss to get unemployment benefits, and found his testimony and direct evidence “more logically persuasive than the employer’s hearsay evidence,” documents state.

Corliss declared bankruptcy after his firing. He said he hasn’t kept up on child support, meaning he sees his three children less than he could before. He also lost his house.

He says it all happened because he was fired after complaining of working in a hostile environment.

“It was ridiculous,” Corliss said. “You just can’t do it. You can’t treat me like that.”

Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker

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