Saleswoman Discharged Due to Multiple Sclerosis, Federal Agency Alleged
RENO, Nev. -- Nevada-based dealership Liberty Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge LLC violated federal law when it fired an employee diagnosed with multiple sclerosis instead of accommodating her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC, about three months after Shara Rynearson was hired as a commissioned salesperson, she notified her supervisor of symptoms that caused her to go to the emergency room in October 2010: a sudden change in vision, numbness in half of her face, and loss of balance. Later Rynearson showed her employer her hospital discharge documents, which included a diagnosis predicting multiple sclerosis. She also informed her supervisor that the doctors had instructed her not to work until after a medical appointment scheduled for early November to confirm the diagnosis. She later brought in a doctor's note excusing her absence from work and reiterating her explanation. The EEOC found that instead of allowing Rynearson to take medical leave for the diagnosis and treatment of her disability, the company fired her on Nov. 5, 2010.
"I really enjoyed working at the dealership," said Rynearson. "Losing my job compounded the shock and disorientation of getting diagnosed with MS. I went to the EEOC because I didn't want anyone else to have to go through that experience."
Terminating a qualified employee because of a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship for the employer. The EEOC filed this suit (temporary case no. 3:15-CV-00232) in U.S. District Court of Nevada after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks back pay and other monetary losses, compensatory and punitive damages for Rynearson, and appropriate injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.
EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, "The EEOC's investigation showed that rather than accommodate Ms. Rynearson's disability by providing her medical leave, this employer chose to ignore the law and fired her because of her disability. Federal law protects employees from precisely such actions."
"Disability does not equal inability," said EEOC San Francisco Acting District Director Michael Connolly. "The ADA was enacted 25 years ago to ensure that capable and qualified people like Ms. Rynearson are not denied the opportunity to contribute their talents to the work force. We filed this lawsuit to send a message to employers that such disability discrimination will not be tolerated."
Liberty Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge LLC is a car dealership in Winnemucca, Nev., integrated with Internet Auto Rent and Sales, Inc. in Reno.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.