A former mechanic for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing has filed a lawsuit claiming he was singled out for his religious beliefs and taunted without mercy, resulting in his termination after he reported the problems.
The lawsuit was filed on Friday in federal court. According to the complaint, former mechanic Scotty Merryman said he experienced physical and verbal harassment while working for the team from January 2011 to July 2012, when he was fired.
Merryman claims the racing team fired him after he complained about the problem. His lawsuit accuses the team of sex discrimination, religious discrimination, and retaliation. Merryman said the harassment started during his first week at work, when the crew chief, Anton Julian, ridiculed him for quoting Bible verses on his Facebook page and asked him about his sex life.
Merryman said he didn’t complain about the harassment immediately because he was a new employee and the racing team seemed to hold the crew chief in high regard.
Merryman said the harassment escalated from there. According to the lawsuit, he and Julian were assigned as roommates during a March 2012 test in Birmingham, Ala. He said Julian “was standing naked next to his bed for no apparent reason and laughing.” This happened after Julian told Merryman they had a set of “roommate rules,” which, according to the lawsuit, were that “I (Julian) get the bed next to the air conditioner, and you (Merryman) must be naked when in the room.” After the escapade, Julian told other employees to ask Merryman about “our roommate rules,” court documents said.
On that same trip, Merryman said Julian came from behind while he was working on an engine and tapped the back of his head with his genitals. He told Julian to “never do anything like that again,” the lawsuit said, adding that other members of the racing team saw the incident and “erupted with laughter.”
Merryman, who identifies himself as a Christian, said he was mocked for his religious beliefs and because he refused to participate in after-hours activities with the team (such as going to strip clubs while on the road).
Merryman said he tried to work with Julian and told him why he didn’t participate in certain activities. That, Merryman said, resulted in taunting and more harassment. According to the lawsuit, Julian told Merryman he was oversensitive.
In July 2012, Merryman was fired. Management at first told him it was because “we need to go in a different direction” before revealing that it was because of “chemistry” between Merryman and Julian, the lawsuit said. Merryman said there was no indication that his termination was related to poor job performance.
Merryman is seeking back pay, “front pay in lieu of reinstatement” and punitive damages.
In a statement emailed to Fox 59, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing said it “it does not comment on any litigation.”