High court shields supervisor from bias lawsuit


HONOLULU (AP) — A man who claims he was fired from a car dealership in 2002 for complaining about his supervisor’s derogatory remarks can move forward with his lawsuit against the company but not against the supervisor, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled.

The 4-1 decision said the supervisor cannot be kept personally liable.

Gerald Lales contends he was fired because he complained supervisor Gary Marxen Sr. made derogatory remarks about Lales’ French origin at their jobs at Wholesale Motors Co.

A circuit court judge threw out the lawsuit. The state appeals court in 2012 reinstated the claims against Marxen and the company.

The case has been closely watched in part because of the issue of personal liability for workers and supervisors who are not defended by their employer.

Associate Justice Simeon Acoba dissented from the 76-page opinion written by Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. Acoba wrote the state anti-discrimination law keeps any person liable for aiding discriminatory practices. He would have let claims against Marxen move forward, he wrote.

The ruling was bittersweet, said Lales’ attorney, Daphne Barbee, but the good outweighed the bad.

Wholesale Motors attorney Christopher Muzzi said the company is reviewing the majority opinion and Acoba’s dissent.

 

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