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Thursday, August 7, 2008
Report: Grant's background includes restraining order, DUI arrest

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The former racing official who has accused NASCAR of racial discrimination and sexual harassment in a $225 million lawsuit had a restraining order filed against her by a former boyfriend and was arrested for driving under the influence, The Associated Press has learned.

Mauricia Grant, who filed her suit against NASCAR in June, also was charged with driving with a suspended license while still employed as a technical inspector for NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series.

An attorney for Grant said his client did not refute anything in her past, but previous actions have no bearing on the suit that alleges 23 specific incidents of sexual harassment and 34 specific incidents of racial and gender discrimination during her time working for NASCAR.

She claims her October 2007 firing was retaliation for complaining about the way she was treated on the job from her January 2005 hiring.

"Ms. Grant's alleged prior actions are totally irrelevant to this suit," attorney Benedict P. Morelli said in a statement. "NASCAR must obey the law and should focus its full attention on improving the discriminatory and hostile work environment to which employees are subject."

But NASCAR indicated Thursday her past actions are a reflection on Grant's character, and vowed to continue fighting her claims. NASCAR asked for and was granted a three-week extension on filing its response to her suit, and the new deadline is Friday.

"Clearly, these revelations show that there are always at least two sides to every story," NASCAR said in a statement to the AP. "We are confident that over the course of this process even more facts will come to light and justice will be served."

Court documents reviewed by The AP showed that Grant has legal issues dating back to a 2002 restraining order filed by an ex-boyfriend.

Willie Lowery was granted a temporary restraining order by the Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging Grant threatened his life and harassed him with repeated phone calls at home and at work.

"She has made many threats on my life and job. She called my job ... up to six times attempting to slander my name and have me fired," Lowery wrote in his request for protection. "She has been spotted in front of my home on several occasions. She has contacted all of my family and friends attempting to make threats and slander my name. She has also contacted my current girlfriend and I feel she is in jeopardy as well."

The restraining order was granted and naturally expired. Lowery, who once filed for a business license with Grant for an apparel company, could not be reached at a phone number listed in court documents.

Grant also was jailed for two days in July 2004, for driving under the influence in Los Angeles. She pleaded no contest a month later, but failed to meet the terms of her probation and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest in January 2005.

A spokesman for the public relations firm representing Morelli and Grant in this suit said the case was never settled because Grant began working for NASCAR and was busy traveling for her new job. It was unclear Thursday if the issue had been resolved, and Morelli did not make Grant available to the AP.

Grant also was charged with driving with a suspended license in Atlanta last October while working for NASCAR. She was fired later that month, and NASCAR has declined to reveal why Grant was terminated.

Grant, who is black, claims in her suit she was fired for complaining about how she was treated by fellow officials during her employment. The suit alleges she was referred to as "Nappy Headed Mo" and "Queen Sheba," by co-workers, was often told she worked on "colored people time." She also claimed she was frightened by one official who routinely made references to the Ku Klux Klan.

In addition, Grant said she was subjected to sexual advances from male co-workers, two of whom allegedly exposed themselves to her, and graphic and lewd jokes. She says she has e-mails and text messages to support her claims.

The two officials Grant claims exposed themselves to her, Tim Knox and Bud Moore, were placed on administrative leave for violating company policy during NASCAR's investigation of the suit. They are still on paid leave.

A third official named in the suit, David Duke, was fired earlier this year for reasons NASCAR said are unrelated to Grant's claims.

Morelli said NASCAR's action proves Grant's claims are valid.

"Despite this apparent smear campaign against Mauricia Grant, NASCAR has not refuted one single claim Ms. Grant has made about the discrimination and harassment she endured," Morelli said. "Instead, NASCAR suspended two officials in the course of its interminable internal investigation, and had previously fired an employee later named in the suit for an undisclosed reason."

NASCAR chairman Brian France has maintained that Grant never made a formal complaint or followed NASCAR policy in reporting harassment. France also said investigators have failed to uncover a single instance where Grant complained to her supervisors or other employees about the way she was treated.