Employees of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car at Detroit Metropolitan Airport have filed a lawsuit accusing the company of discriminating against African-American customers looking to rent luxury vehicles
The lawsuit, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court last week, details how Black customers are treated compared to white customers who come in trying to rent luxury cars, Click On Detroit reported.
“At the counter we are instructed to get them into something else,” said Sauda Muhammad, one of six employees who filed the complaint, adding that the company feared Black customers would steal the vehicles or strip them for parts.
The suit also alleges that while a Black customer is told a certain vehicle isn’t available, a white customer will be given access to it almost immediately, with no issue. According to employees, there’s even a code word to refer to Black customers.
“Employees know that ‘locals’ means you’re Black,” said Amber Williams. “It’s not that you’re from Michigan; it automatically means it’s a Black person. If a white person walks in, unfortunately, they’re not considered local, they’re just considered a customer.”
Among other allegations noted in the suit, employees claim managers told them that “no one that lives on East 7 Mile road or Joy Road should be driving luxury cars.” Both East 7 Mile Road and Joy Road are largely Black areas of Detroit. Moreover, the complaint claims managers instructed workers to lower or waive deposits on rental cars for white customers, yet this same courtesy was never extended to Black customers.
“Managers have also referred to African-American customers by other derogatory terms, such as ‘thugs,’ and have called the police on African-American customers without any justification,” the lawsuit alleges.
When a Black customer complains, Muhammad said she just has to apologize and say, “we don’t have that right now but we can get you into this and we’ll waive the fuel charge and take other steps to make you happy but still not give you the car you reserved.”
The employees told Click On Detroit they’ve taken their concerns to management, many of whom are also African-American, but nothing has changed. They said they now fear retaliation.
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