Texas

Car salesman farted in coworker's office, pinched his nipples to 'reinforce dominance,' lawsuit says

AutoNation Acura in League City, Texas employed a weaponized farter, according to a former employee's lawsuit.
AutoNation Acura in League City, Texas employed a weaponized farter, according to a former employee's lawsuit. Streetview image

Brett Bland is a car salesman who's had his fill of the raunchy, sales-bro culture at the southeast Texas dealership where he used to work.

According to court documents filed in Galveston County, Bland is suing his former boss and the dealership's parent company for what he calls the "sexually hostile," and — at times — smelly, work environment he endured for more than a year at the AutoNation Acura dealership in League City, just southeast of Houston, near the Texas Gulf Coast.

In his lawsuit, he accuses his former boss, Jeremy Pratt, of weaponizing his own farts and repeatedly pinching Bland's and other male subordinates' nipples.

"He reinforced dominance over his subordinates by regularly entering their enclosed offices, intentionally passing gas and then laughing as they were forced to breathe soiled air," the plaintiff's original petition in Gaveston County's 212th District Court says.

It also says that Pratt's behavior was tolerated in the office and by upper management, and that "opened the door" to even nastier behavior. Bland accuses Pratt of warning that if anyone complained about him to the human resources department, officials wouldn't do anything because Pratt had the director of Human Resources 'wrapped around his finger.' "

That was after an episode in February, when Pratt allegedly sent a group text to several employees including a doctored version of a photograph of Bland that falsely warned the other recipients that Bland might be a sex offender. According to the lawsuit, Pratt sent the text to 8-10 coworkers, saying "Keep your children safe," and "you are receiving this because there may be a risk of sex offender activity in your area."

Bland says that Pratt made another dealership employee, identified in the lawsuit as "David," to "Photoshop" Bland's image onto a background that resembled a jail booking photo or sex offender identification photo. Another recipient of the group text responded that he "was wondering why [Bland] kept asking if I had any pictures of my nieces or nephews."

The dealership eventually fired Pratt, but after his firing, the dealership subjected Bland to a policy under which he would be fired if he didn't sell eight vehicles per month, according to the lawsuit. Bland claims that policy, referred to in the lawsuit as an "8 or the gate" policy, was not in place before Pratt was fired.

The suit also alleges that AutoNation management has continued to allow Pratt to loiter at the dealership even after he was fired, where Pratt continues to belittle Bland and other former subordinates.

Bland filed the suit on May 25 in Galveston County's 212th District Court. The lawsuit does not state a dollar figure Bland is is seeking, but lists damages and court costs as relief.

The dealership declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by the Houston television station KPRC, and has not yet responded to the lawsuit, according to court documents.

Just like many movements for equal rights in America, the path for women to seek recourse from sexual harassment has been through the courts. But grassroots activism in the 1970s opened the space for a nationwide conversation, and the Civil Right

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