Lawsuits allege sexual harassment at same Chattanooga car dealership that employed man who was recently arrested on kidnapping, extortion charges

Lawsuits allege sexual harassment at same Chattanooga car dealership that employed man who was recently arrested on kidnapping, extortion charges

April 16th, 2019 by Zack Peterson in Local Regional News

For Grace Aldrich, the harassment began shortly after she started working for Mountain View Chevrolet in Chattanooga in April 2018, her lawsuit states.

On multiple occasions, Aldrich alleges, her male supervisor sent her inappropriate text messages and said he wanted to have sex with her. He called her "super attractive," asked her to go out of town with him to Nashville, told her she couldn't wear certain pants around him and regularly commented on the size of her breasts, according to Aldrich.

But when she reported these concerns to a male sales manager in June 2018, she was told to "hang in there" and that the situation would work itself out, she said. It never improved, Aldrich said, and after she was discharged from the East 20th Street dealership that September, she asked to work at a different Mountain View location. Not only did Aldrich never hear back from the company, but in October 2018, she said, her former harassing supervisor accidentally sent her a text message saying, "no way Grace should get hired at [a different location] ... she knows too much."

Aldrich detailed these allegations through Nashville lawyer Jason Lee when she filed her lawsuit in Hamilton County Chancery Court in December 2018 accusing Mountain View Chevrolet of negligent infliction of emotional distress.

And one year earlier, a different former female employee, Joanna Crews, filed a wrongful discrimination and wrongful termination complaint against Mountain View Chevrolet and its corporate parent, MTW Acquisition Inc., in Hamilton County Circuit Court. Ultimately, Crews and the company "completely resolved and settled any and all claims" in October 2018, court records show.

In Crews' lawsuit, her attorney Stephen Duggins likened the general atmosphere at Mountain View Chevrolet to "a frat house."

Women were rarely hired there for sales positions, subjected to different standards and regularly endured sexually inappropriate comments, he wrote. Crews was once asked to "stretch it" while washing a window, he wrote. Another time, a salesman asked if she wanted to see his "pollywog." She was fired in June 2016 after being wrongly accused of running a customer's credit report without the customer's permission, Duggins said.

The company's listed attorney on that case, Sean Martin, did not return a call for comment Tuesday. Neither did the general manager at Mountain View Chevrolet's 20th Street location, who is mentioned in the lawsuit. Chattanooga attorney Joseph White, who registered Mountain View Chevrolet's corporate parent, MTW Acquisition, also could not be reached for comment and was in a deposition Tuesday.

In an unrelated incident, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents said Tuesday they had arrested a Mountain View Chevrolet employee, Daniel Clayton Bryant, in Cedar Hill, Texas.

A federal affidavit charges Bryant with driving a disabled Mountain View customer against his will to multiple banks in Tennessee and Georgia between April 1, 2019, and April 3, 2019, withdrawing nearly $200,000 from the customer's account in cashier's checks and forcing him to smoke crack cocaine in a hotel room.

Two days after Chattanooga police found the disabled man on April 3 and made a report, an FBI agent got permission to take money out of Bryant's bank account and track his cellphones, documents say. Bryant then fled to Atlanta and ultimately was captured in Texas. It's unknown if he has a defense attorney yet.

Bryant had an initial hearing Tuesday in a federal court in Texas and is being extradited back to Chattanooga on kidnapping and bank robbery and extortion charges.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.