Former Montgomery Hyundai executive sues, citing racism and retaliation

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A former Hyundai executive at the automaker’s Montgomery plant has filed a federal lawsuit, saying she was fired from her job after she was singularly kicked out of management as her position was diminished due to racism.

Yvette Gilkey-Shuford, who said she was previously the highest-ranking black woman and executive at the auto plant until her term ended in June, had previously filed a complaint with the Federal Commission for equal opportunity in employment.

His lawsuit was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Intermediate District of Alabama. She is suing for compensatory and punitive damages, back wages and lost benefits.

In a statement, Robert Burns, vice president of human resources and administration at Hyundai Motors Manufacturing Alabama, said the company “respectfully disagrees with the assertions of the former employee. Claims will be vigorously defended with information presented during the litigation process.

“HMMA provides a workplace free from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, national origin or ancestry, status citizenship, physical or mental disability, genetic information, veteran status, uniformed service member status or any other status protected by federal, state or local law,” Burns said.

According to the lawsuit, Gilkey-Shuford worked for Hyundai for 19 years, eventually becoming director of administration in 2018. Yet she claims that in taking on the job, she saw her responsibilities diminished and was the lowest-paid director. .

For this reason, the lawsuit states, “a white executive found it amusing to ‘joke’ that his primary role” during shift sessions was to make sure the coffee stayed hot.

Instead, she says she was kicked out of several key executive committees and paid about $15,000 less than the only other manager with a similar background, who headed the legal department.

As noted in her EEOC grievance earlier this year, Gilkey-Shuford alleges she was fired after a draft employee memorandum was forwarded to the executive management team at Hyundai in California without her knowledge.

The memo discussed how the plant could better recognize Pride Month, as well as possible changes to company policy regarding name changes for transgender employees.

According to the lawsuit, in defending itself against the EEOC’s complaint, Hyundai argued that elevating Gilkey-Shuford to the management team was “nothing more than a tactic to counter the organization union at the factory, and that since the union threat had subsided, it was consumable.”

“The inference is that the promotion was intended to provide optical value to HMMA’s manufacturing workforce, which is over 80% African American,” the suit reads.

Her attorney, Arthur Davis, said she was fired days after Hyundai’s California headquarters launched an investigation into complaints by some employees about the plant’s anti-LBGT policies, and that management de Montgomery thought that Gilkey-Shuford supported and encouraged complaints.

“This kind of discrimination doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Davis said. “It is part of a culture of discrimination and prejudice and Ms. Shuford is not the only victim of this culture. This is just the tip of the iceberg. »

When she was fired, Gilkey-Shuford said she rejected a severance package that would have made her ineligible to be rehired at Hyundai or any of its supply or distribution networks. The prosecution called this an “unquestionably punitive condition.”

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