National Car Dealers to Pay $150,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Worker Was Fired After Disclosing Potential Cancer Diagnosis, Federal Agency Charged

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Car dealers Victory Automotive Group, Inc. and Cappo Management XXIX, Inc. will pay $150,000 and hire a consultant to facilitate changes to their policies and training practices to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, the joint employers terminated a title clerk working at their Sacramento dealership over fears that she might have cancer. The employee had missed several days of work due to a sudden illness, and then informed management that she had been hospital­ized and was undergoing testing for cancer. The employers promptly fired the employee a day before her anticipated return, despite a medical release allowing her to work. Her termination letter advised her to “focus on her health,” and confirmed that her termination was not performance-related.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating based on a disability or a perceived disability. The EEOC filed suit on Nov. 10, 2020 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Case No. 2:20-cv-02245-MCE-KJN, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the lawsuit provides $150,000 in lost wages and emotional distress damages to the worker. The companies will also implement policies and procedures to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, including the retention of an ADA consultant. Leave-based terminations will require secondary reviews, as well. The company will also provide annual training to certain managers and human resource personnel and submit reports to the EEOC during the decree’s three-year term.

“Federal law prohibits employers from terminating individuals purely out of fear that those individuals may have a disability,” said EEOC San Francisco District Director Nancy Sienko. “We commend these employers’ willingness to promptly resolve this lawsuit, and to implement robust ADA policies and procedures.”

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney James H. Baker added, “This employee should never have been terminated. Her hospitalization and potential cancer diagnosis, not her performance, sealed her fate with this company. But this settlement will provide for training to help ensure that such terminations do not occur again in this workplace.”

Collectively, Victory Automotive Group and Cappo Management employ over 1,900 employees at over 40 dealerships around the United States, including several locations in California.

In the 2020 fiscal year, the EEOC recovered over $109,800,000 stemming from alleged violations involving the ADA. For more information on disability discrimination, please visit https://www.eeoc.gov/disability-discrimination.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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