Kansas Jiffy Lube Facing Discrimination Lawsuit

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A Kansas Jiffy Lube franchise refused to hire a black applicant because "white people do not trust having black people working on their cars," the would-be mechanic claims in a federal class action.

Mikel Brooks, of Wichita, sued R & P Enterprises and franchise owner Robert H. Bell for race discrimination and civil rights violations in Federal Court on July 16. According to the lawsuit, R & P Enterprises owns approximately nine Jiffy Lube locations in Wichita.

According to the complaint, Bell -- who is one of R & P Enterprises' owners and controls business operations for that company's Wichita locations -- established a policy against hiring black employees because "white people do not trust having black people work on their cars."

Brooks allegedly applied for a job at Jiffy Lube's 21st and Woodlawn location in January 2014 after he was referred by another employee. Brooks called about his application a week later but no decision had been made.

When the employee who referred Brooks inquired about his friend's application and mentioned that Brooks is black, that location's manager allegedly told him that Jiffy Lube would not hire Brooks due to a "company-wide policy against hiring African-Americans."

The employee then confronted franchise owner Robert Bell, who allegedly confirmed the existence of the policy and said that "it was his company and he could do what he wants," the lawsuit claims.

Two years ago, owners of the same Jiffy Lube location made local television news when they closed the store temporarily to investigate customer allegations that an employee made racist comments to an U.S.-born customer of Indian descent.

The accused employee in that case was eventually fired, and Jiffy Lube posted on its national Facebook page that president of Jiffy Lube International, Stu Crumm, contacted the customer to apologize, KAKE TV in Wichita reported.

The manager of the Woodlawn location referred Courthouse News to its corporate office, which was not yet aware of the lawsuit.

Jennifer Friedmann, a spokeswoman for Jiffy Lube International, confirmed that the Woodlawn location did close in 2013 for the investigation of discrimination against a customer but declined comment on both that investigation and the pending lawsuit.

Bell did not return a request for comment.

Brooks seeks class certification, unspecified damages and an injunction prohibiting further discrimination.

This article originally appeared on Courthouse News Service.

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