A black former AAMCO executive is suing the company for pay and racial discrimination

Jerome Staley, the former vice president of operations for the Eastern region, alleged in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that he earned nearly $40,000 less a year than his peers. All of the company’s other vice presidents are White, the suit says.

When Staley learned of the alleged racial pay gap last year, she complained to company management. But according to the suit, AAMCO CEO James Gregory said he was “disappointed” by Staley’s accusation of racial discrimination and responded to Staley’s complaint by saying, “You do enough,” the suit, filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, says. .

Staley alleges she later suffered retaliation for her complaints when she did not receive an $11,000 bonus based on her territory’s performance in the third quarter of 2021, according to the lawsuit. After asking why he wasn’t paid, Staley was told company management was withholding the bonus because they didn’t believe he “trained his team enough,” according to the lawsuit, which says Staley was ranked number one in the company that quarter. .

Last November, Staley quit because she was “unwilling to work for a company that denied her equal pay,” according to the lawsuit.

After leaving the company, Staley sought to own an AAMCO franchise in Aiken, South Carolina, but the company denied his request, the suit says.

When asked why her request was denied, the lawsuit alleges that Kimberly Robinson, who was the company’s director of franchise development at the time, said it was “because of how you left.” But the lawsuit says his explanation was not credible because he resigned from the company, rather than being terminated. The lawsuit says Staley gave reasonable notice, worked through his notice period and tried to convince the CEO to stay at AAMCO. The suit names Robinson as a defendant, along with AAMCO and Gregory, of retaliating against him after his franchise application for racial discrimination damages was denied.

“AAMCO’s racist pay practices are unacceptable. While promoting itself as a model of corporate diversity, AAMCO chose to dramatically undercut its only black executive and retaliate against him for expecting equal pay. Corporate America cannot speak for diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said. Ashlie Case, one of the attorneys representing Sletvold Staley, told reporters in a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

Speaking to CNN, Gregory and AAMCO’s parent company, American Driveline Systems, said the company “takes these allegations very seriously. While we cannot discuss the details of these claims pending litigation, we can say they are without merit and we will vigorously defend against them.” ».

CNN has reached out to Robinson for comment.

Staley told reporters that he had invested years of his life in a company he valued only as a “black poster child” to promote inclusivity. The lawsuit alleges that Staley was prominently featured in the company’s marketing materials following the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Case Sletvold, Staley’s attorney, said he appeared on television representing AAMCO and traveled to meet with new recruits of color.

“When I was working on my ponytail for AAMCO, I was using it to look diverse and my white colleagues refused to pay me for what I did,” Staley said.

The lawsuit seeks damages including back pay, lost earnings, emotional distress damages and attorneys’ fees.

“Nothing will make Jerome feel that he did nothing wrong here, but certainly an acknowledgment that he was underpaid and an effort to correct this disparity now and in the future would be welcome from the defendants,” Case Sletvold said.