General Manager with Multiple Sclerosis Denied Partnership and Harassed Because of his Disability, Forced to Resign from Dealership, Agency Charges
LUBBOCK - A Lubbock, Texas automobile dealership violated federal disability discrimination law by denying a partnership to a general manager because of his multiple sclerosis, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The EEOC further alleges that Randall Hurst was subjected to a hostile work environment based on his disability, and forced to quit as a result of the lost pay and harassment.
According to the EEOC's suit, Hurst was hired by Benny Boyd Chevrolet-Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep, Ltd., d/b/a Benny Boyd Lubbock, and Boyd Lamesa Management, L.C. in November 2010 to assume the job of general manager of its Lubbock dealership. The EEOC alleges that the compensation package for Hurst included a promise of partnership. After successfully operating the dealership for several months, Hurst was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in May 2011, and his medical condition was disclosed to the company's top management staff. Thereafter, the EEOC contends, the company failed to honor its promise of extending a partnership to Hurst, and he was told that the reason was his MS.
The EEOC also alleges that Hurst's supervisor subjected him to demeaning comments about his diagnosis, including asking him, "What's wrong with you? Are you a cripple?" and telling him, "You are on your last quarter, buddy, since you have MS." The company failed to take any remedial action to stop the unwelcome behavior, the EEOC alleges. As a result of the continuing harassment based on his disability and the substantial loss of compensation due to the denial of partnership, Hurst was forced to resign in November 2012.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination, including disability-based harassment, in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 5:13-cv-00220-C, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Lubbock Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In this case, the EEOC seeks compensatory and punitive damages and back pay, as well as injunctive relief, including an order barring similar violations of the ADA in the future.
"For a company to deny an employee a promised partnership on the basis of his medical condition, and then to exacerbate the discrimination with demeaning comments about this condition, is a brazen violation of law," said Devika Seth, senior trial attorney in the EEOC's Dallas District Office.
Janet Elizondo, district director of the EEOC's Dallas District Office, added, "People with disabilities can make tremendous contributions to the working environment, at all levels. Employers should recognize this and take advantage of these talents available to them."
The Lamesa, Texas-based company owns and operates 10 dealerships throughout north and central Texas.
The EEOC's Dallas District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in northern Texas and parts of New Mexico.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.