The former comptroller and a human resources specialist each filed a lawsuit against Robert Brogden’s Olathe Buick GMC dealership saying they were retaliated against and wrongfully terminated from their jobs for reporting financial fraud.
Lynda Cole, 62, of Edgerton, and Brooke Nemechek, 21, of Lawrence, filed separate lawsuits last week in Johnson County District Court against the dealership and its owner, Robert Brogden.
Both lawsuits indicate that the dealership’s general manager had created a hostile work environment and that the dealership’s senior management failed to take corrective action or action.
They also claim that when they reported financial fraud and other illegal activities on the part of the CEO, he retaliated and they were wrongfully terminated or forced to resign.
An attorney for the dealership was not immediately available for comment on Monday.
The lawsuits are the latest filed against the dealer for an allegedly hostile work environment.
In late May, Jude Boliere, a 60-year-old black man from Olathe, sued the dealership alleging that during his eight months with the dealership he had been discriminated against because of his race and age and retaliation for reporting it. Bolière argues that racial slurs were “so generously thrown around” at his workplace, but the dealer did nothing to address the harassment.
That case was remanded to federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, and the dealership denied any wrongdoing, according to court filings.
Verbal and emotional abuse reported
According to the new lawsuits, Cole worked as a controller for the two Brogden dealerships in Olathe and one in Hays, Kansas, between August 2015 and October 2021. During that time, Nemechek, who started working for the defendants in August 2017, has was a human resources specialist. when she was forced to resign in November 2021.
Cole, who had worked with the general manager of another dealership, warned Brogden and senior dealership management when they promoted him to general manager of Robert Brogden’s Olathe Buick GMC in January 2020.
When the GM learned of the email, he became aggressive and angrily berated Cole in front of a senior dealership member, who sat quietly and allowed the abuse to continue. relentlessly, according to the lawsuit.
Cole said that shortly after the general manager took over the dealership, she witnessed and received reports of the general manager verbally and emotionally abusing other employees, particularly black and female workers.
Whenever Cole witnessed abuse or it was brought to her attention, she reported it to senior management at the dealership. The general manager also allegedly used illegal drugs at the dealership, which she also reported to management, according to the suit.
Cash theft, altered contracts alleged
As controller, Cole “learned firsthand” that the GM would allegedly steal cash deposits. When asked where the deposit money was, the GM blamed others and ordered Cole to “just cancel it.”
Cole reported every incident to dealership management, who assured him that everything was reported to Brogden.
At one point in 2021, the GM told Cole that he ‘didn’t like firing anyone, but rather made them so miserable with abuse and an unrealistic workload that they would choose to resign. “.
Among other allegations in his lawsuit, Cole alleges that the chief executive misappropriated his bonuses and commissions, as well as those of other employees, as part of an ongoing wage theft scheme, according to the lawsuit.
She also alleges that the General Manager promoted a friend employed in the finance department when he had no prior finance experience. The employee was transferred to the Kia store to work in the finance department.
Cole alleges that at the direction of the general manager, the employee allegedly changed the contracts after customers left with their vehicles by adding things like extended service contracts and gap policies without the customers’ consent. The employee allegedly forged customer signatures on the new documents.
Cole argues that the practice has become so routine and endemic that an employee’s daughter has fallen victim. After learning of the illegal and fraudulent practices, she reported them to dealership management.
“Make us money”
In September 2021, Cole fell ill. Shortly after, her father fell ill and needed treatment. She was forced to take six weeks off under the Family and Medical Leave Act. While he was away, the GM broke into his office, telling an employee who witnessed it that he wanted to see if Cole had “any dirt on him.”
Upon learning that her office had been broken into, she emailed the dealership’s senior management expressing her objections. In an email response, which she received the same day her father died, the dealership said it would accept his resignation.
Cole called a member of the dealership’s management team and told her she wasn’t quitting. This person, however, told Cole that it was his decision to fire her due to her complaints about the general manager’s conduct and behavior.
The senior management team member reportedly said the chief executive ‘makes us money – that’s what’s important’.
‘Do with it’
The allegations in Nemechek’s lawsuit are similar. She alleges that the General Manager verbally abused, harassed, bullied and intimidated her. She described the general manager’s behavior as rude and regularly abusive towards her. Because she was constantly attacked and threatened, she felt unsafe at work, according to the lawsuit.
Nemechek said she reported instances of abusive and threatening behavior to her supervisor and management, but the dealership took no corrective action. Instead, the dealership and the general manager retaliated against her, according to the suit.
Nemechek later became aware of instances where the chief executive, with the cooperation of the chief financial officer, fraudulently added provisions to financial agreements and forged client signatures on those agreements, according to the suit.
Nemechek said she reported the suspected fraud and illegal activity to her supervisor and manager, but the dealership took no action to investigate the allegations. The chief executive, however, escalated his threats and abusive behavior towards her, according to the suit.
When she complained about the additional threats and abuse, she was told “to just deal with it”, according to the lawsuit.
Nemechek alleges that the dealership and her landlord allowed him to continue to harass, bully, threaten and intimidate her in hopes that she would quit. Because she felt mentally and physically threatened, she was forced out of her job in November 2021, according to the lawsuit.
Cole and Nemechek are both seeking more than $75,000 in damages, alleging whistleblower retaliation, wrongful termination, negligence and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Cole also alleges that the dealer did not fail to pay wages.
This story was originally published June 27, 2022 1:13 p.m.