Former official pleased with NASCAR lawsuit settlement
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The former official who filed a $225 million racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against NASCAR is very pleased with her settlement and looking forward to moving on, her attorney said last Friday.
Maurica Grant reached a confidential settlement with NASCAR following 12 hours of mediation earlier this month in New York. The session was suggested by U.S. District Court Judge Deborah A. Batts after the first court appearance in what was expected to be a lengthy battle between the two sides.
“She’d been out of work a long time. We thought it was in the best interest of our client not to drag this out two to three years,” said Benedict P. Morelli of New York-based Morelli Ratner PC.
“She needed closure,” Morelli added. “She’s a young woman, and when you make the sort of allegations she did, it’s difficult to move forward and get on with your life.”
Settlement terms were confidential, and neither side admitted liability or wrongdoing.
“She’s very, very happy with the resolution,” Morelli said. “And I don’t think NASCAR wanted to leave it out there. They wanted to put this behind them, as well.”
Grant, who is black, worked as a technical inspector responsible for certifying cars in NASCAR’s second-tier Nationwide Series from January 2005 until her October 2007 termination. In the lawsuit filed in June in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Grant alleged 23 specific incidents of alleged sexual harassment and 34 specific incidents of alleged racial and gender discrimination during her employment.
Among Grant’s claims, she said she was referred to as “Nappy Headed Mo” and “Queen Sheba” by co-workers, was often told she worked on “colored people time,” and was frightened by one official who routinely made Ku Klux Klan references.
Grant also said she was subjected to sexual advances from male co-workers, two of whom allegedly exposed themselves to her, as well as graphic and lewd jokes.
NASCAR chairman Brian France denied that Grant ever complained to her supervisors about anything listed in her lawsuit. But an internal investigation into her claims ultimately resulted in the firing of two of the 17 officials named in her suit.
NASCAR has not disclosed why the two officials, who Grant said exposed themselves to her, were fired.
A third official was fired in April of this year, but NASCAR said it was unrelated to the suit.
NASCAR also has refused to say why Grant was fired. In its response to her suit, though, it claimed 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 also claimed a pattern of tardiness for which she was routinely reprimanded.
Morelli said his team was prepared to go to trial if a settlement could not be reached, but it would take several years to even get to a courtroom. He added the mediation session, which Grant attended, went about five hours longer than average negotiations.
Although several NASCAR representatives were present, Morelli said France was not at the mediation. “But the key principals were reachable by telephone,” he said.