“Women should not be allowed to work in public. They are ignorant and stupid.” – Kevin Rinke, allegedly
This morning, The Detroit News released a report detailing the toxic workplace environment gubernatorial candidate Kevin Rinke created and maintained. According to court records, working for the Toyota car salesman was a deeply uncomfortable experience because Rinke “believed he could get away with anything.”
Rinke was sued multiple times by employees, who said he asked women if they were wearing matching underwear, made lewd sexual gestures, employed “relentless racial slurs,” and even made sexually suggestive comments about infants. The constant barrage of offensive comments and racist language pushed employees to quit and cost Rinke thousands in settlement fees.
MDP spokesperson Rodericka Applewhaite issued the following statement:
“Why should Michiganders from all backgrounds trust Kevin Rinke to keep them first when he couldn’t be bothered to do that in his own workplace? Kevin Rinke is an out-of-touch millionaire and there’s no question that these resurfaced lawsuits are just a glimpse of how toxic it was to work under him. He’s trying to buy the governor’s mansion when it’s decency he should be in the market for instead.”
Read excerpts below from The Detroit News on the extent of these hostile environment lawsuits and read the full report here.
The Detroit News: Past Discrimination Suits Loom Over Kevin Rinke’s Run For Michigan Governor
Lawsuits from the 1990s claim Republican Kevin Rinke made sexual and racist comments to employees of a car dealership he ran in Metro Detroit, allegations the businessman denies but are drawing attention in his high-profile campaign for governor.
Two suits, examined by The Detroit News, involved four employees of Rinke Pontiac/GMC. One worker, Michael Todd Blakes, alleged in a May 1992 filing that Rinke used a racist slur on three occasions. Another worker, Mona Kidder, alleged he once asked her if she had a “matching bra and panties on” and made derogatory comments about women.
“Women should not be allowed to work in public,” the Kidder lawsuit claimed Rinke once said. “They are ignorant and stupid.”
Rinke, 60, whose family has operated dealerships in Michigan for decades, formally launched his campaign on Nov. 22. He has repeatedly described the claims from past employees as false. […]
In the Kidder suit, which initially involved two other employees, the defendants — Rinke; his father, Roland; and Rinke Pontiac/GMC in Macomb County — offered a $15,000 judgment in Kidder’s favor and the parties eventually agreed to a dismissal of the case, according to court documents, suggesting there was a settlement. […]
Jamil Akhtar, a longtime employment discrimination lawyer who represented the workers in both cases, disagreed with Rinke’s assertion that the claims were false. Rinke thought he could get away with anything, the attorney said in an interview. […]
In December 1991, Rinke allegedly asked Blakes if his car was stolen. Blakes responded that he doesn’t steal. To which Rinke allegedly responded, according to the suit, “You mean you aren’t like the rest of the (N-word).”
The court filing claimed that Rinke had made a reference to the employees’ penis size in front of other employees and used the same racist slur at a social function.
“Plaintiff Michael Todd Blakes became extremely embarrassed, humiliated and outraged at the comments of Defendant Kevin C. Rinke, and left the premises,” the court filing said.
Rinke had created a hostile work environment, Blakes’ suit alleged, and Blakes resigned because he could “no longer tolerate the outrage, humiliation and endure the relentless racial slurs.” […]
A few months later in December 1992, three others who worked at Rinke Pontiac/GMC filed a discrimination lawsuit against Kevin Rinke, his father, Roland, and the dealership. […]
The most prominent claims in the case came from Mona Kidder, who had worked as an administrative assistant and Rinke’s personal secretary. Kidder had been subjected to “sexually explicit remarks” by Kevin Rinke “throughout her employment,” according to the lawsuit.
Among many allegations in the court filing involving lewd comments was one that said Rinke, in front of other employees, looked at a picture of newborn infant boys and made “statements as to ‘how well hung’ the baby was.”
He also made masturbation gestures while on long phone calls, the suit said.
On another occasion, according to the suit, Rinke allegedly called Kidder and said, “I bet your (sic) standing there butt naked with your boyfriend and that he is going down on you.” Rinke allegedly would tell people his three favorite expressions were “I will call you in the morning,” “your check is in the mail” and “I promise I won’t come in your mouth.”
In July 1992, Kidder, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, was discharged from her position “as her working conditions became so intolerable that she was compelled to resign,” according to the suit.
The defendants offered a $15,000 judgment in Kidder’s favor in July 1993, according to court documents. […]
In response to questions from The News, Rinke spokeswoman Katie Martin said the cases were dropped or settled for “next to nothing” because “there was simply no truth to the nonsense.” […]
Rodericka Applewhaite, spokeswoman for the Michigan Democratic Party, said Rinke wants to run on his business record, “which is full of inexcusable and disqualifying workplace behavior.”
“Michiganders will have a clear picture that Rinke’s toxic leadership shouldn’t be anywhere near elected office,” Applewhaite said. “His millions won’t shield him from being held accountable.” […]
The allegations in the suits against sketch a much different portrayal.
It’s a story that showed Rinke had “no concern for his employees’ civil rights,” said Akhtar, a longtime employment discrimination lawyer who represented the workers who brought cases against the businessman in the 1990s.
When contacted by a reporter, Akhtar said he was surprised that Rinke was a top contender for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
“It happens to a lot of business owners,” Akhtar said of the suits. “Normally, they get slapped one time and they stop. But this guy, he just didn’t have any bottom.”