What to Know
- According to the complaint, a manager at a Pennsauken store repeatedly used the "n-word" when talking to her co-workers
- Another assistant manager reported the behavior to several different managers and was told to focus on "getting sales," the complaint says
- Rent-A-Center denied the allegations and said it took corrective action a long time ago
The state of New Jersey has filed a Superior Court complaint against a national rental chain alleging tolerance of racial slurs after officials say management didn't do enough following reports of an assistant manager repeatedly using the "n-word" at two of its Garden State stores.
The complaint filed Wednesday in Camden County alleges Rent-A-Center, which operates 2,600 "rent-to-own" stores across the country, including two in New Jersey, failed to prevent or remedy racially hostile conduct in two of its Pennsauken stores.
The alleged discriminatory conduct included an assistant manager at the Federal Street store habitually using the n-word when speaking to co-workers. A black employee, who is also an assistant manager at the store, reported the slurs to a Rent-A-Center district manager and to corporate higher-ups in Texas, where the company is based, but no effective remedial measures were taken, the complaint alleges.
According to the complaint, when the black employee initially reported the slurs to several managers, he was told to focus on "getting sales" offending manager. Then he contacted corporate headquarters. In response, Rent-A-Center admonished the offending manager, who is Latina, for her conduct, and said she had received her "final warning," according to documents the company provided to the Division on Civil Rights, which filed the complaint in conjunction with the state attorney general's office.
The offending manager kept her job but was transferred to a second Rent-A-Center store on Crescent Boulevard in Pennsauken. Once assigned to her new store, the manager allegedly persisted in using the n-word to address her co-workers. The employee who reported the continued use of the slurs at the Crescent Boulevard location no longer works with the company.
Rent-A-Center denies the allegations made in the lawsuit and by the ex-Crescent Boulevard employee and said it addressed the issue long ago.
"Rent-A-Center is disappointed that the New Jersey Attorney General's Office has decided to expend taxpayer resources on a case that is almost two years old," the company said in a statement. "The employee, who is currently employed with us, complained to human resources. Rent-A-Center conducted a complete investigation and administered workplace behavior and anti-discrimination training promptly upon receipt of the complaint."
The company also said its 21,000 employees have several ways to report discrimination.
The complaint seeks a court order requiring Rent-A-Center to submit to two years of training and monitoring by the Division on Civil Rights.
"No one should be subjected to even one utterance of the slur referenced in this case, let alone a steady diet of it, which is what allegedly took place within this national retail organization according to our complaint," said New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino. "We contend that in circumstances such as those alleged here, an employer must stand up for its workers to stamp out a racially hostile work environment."