Auto parts distribution sued over alleged Covid-19 violations, racist comments

Ex-employee charges retaliation by company

Carparts Distribution Center Inc. The Nashua Department of Public Health violates the city’s Covid-19 mask ordinance.

The suit, filed June 6 by David Johnson in the US District Court in Concord, also charges that Plastow-based operator of several motor vehicle parts outlets throughout New Hampshire, retaliated against Johnson and other employees’ racist comments.

Johnson started working for Carparts in 2012 as a delivery driver at the Nashua location and was promoted to the counter employee and then manager of the Epsom location.

But after the pandemic broke out in March 2020, things started to go sour, according to the deal.

  • When asked about his regional manager’s Covid guidelines, he said that he had to make his own policy. He did so by implementing a no-contact delivery policy and closing the retail area. But after the customers complained, Johnson was asked to go out on furlough in April 2020. When he returned to work, he was sent back to Nashua as a salaried employee.
  • In the next several months, Johnson complained about racist comments – including the use of the N-word – and racist jokes at the workplace, according to the complaint. For instance, it says, on Dec. 2, when the company’s white water cooler was replaced by a black one, a manager allegedly stated, “The new one is black: it’s probably not going to work.”
  • Shortly before Christmas 2020, the store was exposed to Covid by an outside salesman, Johnson said. The same manager allegedly told Johnson that he could not wear a mask. On New Year’s Eve, Johnson repeated another request after a mask policy. The manager became angry and told Johnson he could go home.
  • A week later, according to the suit, Johnson was asked to go to work in the Derry store after a Covid outbreak. Johnson is obliged to go to Salem – presumably to work besides those who have been exposed in derry – because of the lack of Covid safety policies. When another employee was sent to Johnson’s place, he returned to Nashua without being tested. On Jan. 14, 2021, Johnson brought up mask policy again and threatened to report to the city’s Department of Health. The manager allegedly got angry, told Johnson to go home, and when he died, left the store. Later that day, Johnson was fired for insubordination, not giving the manager full support, lack of teamwork and not meeting his 45-hour-a-week salary requirements

The suit argues that these complaints were vague and that Johnson was working 43 to 47 hours a week. Instead, it charges that Carparts is retaliating against Johnson for “reporting discrimination in the workplace, reporting violations of the City Mask Ordinance, and for proposing and advocating for COVID-19 safety measures.”

The suit was filed by the Maine Employee Rights Group, a law firm located in Portland, Maine.

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