Retailer denies suit's allegation it tolerated racial slurs

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CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Rent-A-Center, saying the Texas-based national retailer tolerated racial slurs allegedly made by an assistant manager at two company stores and requesting the company submit to monitoring by a New Jersey civil rights office.

The Plano, Texas-based company, however, denied the allegation and said it had long since addressed the issue.

The complaint, filed Wednesday in Superior Court in Camden, alleges an assistant manager at a Rent-A-Center store in Pennsauken frequently used a racial slur when speaking to co-workers.

The suit says an African-American employee reported the behavior to company higher-ups, but the assistant manager, who is Hispanic, was transferred to another store and continued using the racial slur.

The lawsuit requested that Rent-A-Center submit to training and monitoring by the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights for a period of two years. The suit also seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

"No one should be subjected to even one utterance of the slur referenced in this case, let alone a steady diet, which is what allegedly took place within this national retail organization," Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in a statement.

But Rent-A-Center said it took corrective action when the employee complained.

"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 antidiscrimination training promptly upon receipt of the complaint."

The company also said its 21,000 employees have several ways to report discrimination.

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