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Published: Tuesday, 6/10/2008

Former racing official sues NASCAR over harassment claims

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A former racing official is suing NASCAR for $250 million, alleging racial and sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination.

Mauricia Grant, who is black, worked as a technical inspector responsible for certifying cars in NASCAR s second-tier Nationwide Series from January 2005 until she was fired last October.

Grant alleged she was referred to as Nappy Headed Mo and Queen Sheba, by co-workers, was often told she worked on colored people time and was frightened by one official who routinely made references to the Ku Klux Klan.

NASCAR officials were not immediately available for comment.

Grant said she was subjected to sexual advances from male co-workers, including two who allegedly exposed themselves to her, and graphic and lewd jokes.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, lists multiple instances of alleged sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

NASCAR perpetuated, condoned and actively participated in perverted and disgusting sexual conduct designed to demean and diminish (Grant) and the handful of other women employed by NASCAR as officials, according to the suit.

In the lawsuit, Grant said she complained numerous times to her supervisors about the way she was treated, to no avail. On one occasion, Grant said Nationwide Series director Joe Balash, her immediate supervisor, was dismissive of her complaints, explaining her co-workers were former military guys with a rough sense of humor. You just have to deal with it, she says Balash told her.

Another time, she said Balash participated in the harassment.

Does your workout include an urban obstacle course with a flat-screen TV on your back? she said Balash asked her during the week of July 28, 2007 while working in Indianapolis.

The lawsuit also contends:

Grant was forced to work outside more often than the white male officials because her supervisors believed she couldn t sunburn because she was black.

While riding in the backseat of her carpool at Talladega Superspeedway, co-workers told her to duck as they passed race fans. I don t want to start a riot when these fans see a black woman in my car, she claims one official said.

When packing up in a dark garage at Texas Motor Speedway an official told Grant: Keep smiling and pop your eyes out cause we can t see you.

When she ignored advances from co-workers, Grant was accused of being gay. She adds that co-workers questioned the sexual orientation of two other female officials.



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