EEOC, LUBBOCK, Texas – Benny Boyd Chevrolet-Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep, Ltd., d/b/a Benny Boyd Lubbock, and Boyd-Lamesa Management, L.C. will pay $250,000 in damages and back pay to former manager Randall Hurst to settle a federal disability discrimination suit.
The EEOC had charged the automobile dealership with disability discrimination law by denying a partnership to Hurst because of his multiple sclerosis, subjecting him to a hostile work environment and forcing him to quit as a result.
According to the EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 5:13-CV-0220-C), filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Lubbock Division, Hurst was wooed away from a lucrative job at another dealership by Benny Boyd to be the General Manager of its Lubbock location.
The EEOC alleged that the compensation package offered Hurst included a promise of partnership. After successfully operating the dealership for several months, Hurst was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and his medical condition was disclosed to the company’s top management staff. Thereafter, the EEOC contended, 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 alleged 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 alleged. As a result of the continuing harassment based on his disability and the substantial loss of compensation due to the denial of partnership, the EEOC contended that Hurst was forced to resign in November 2012.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits disability discrimination, including disability-based harassment, in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit after investigating the case, finding reasonable cause to believe that the alleged discrimination took place, and then attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the monetary relief, the three year consent decree signed by U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings on Feb. 11, 2015, requires substantial injunctive relief . Although the company is no longer in business, if it returns to business in the area, the company will amend its anti-harassment policy to include disability discrimination; conduct annual training for all owners, partners, general managers, managers and supervisors on the law against disability discrimination; and post a notice regarding the prohibition against disability discrimination.
“This settlement is an important reminder to employers of their obligation to comply with
the ADA and to treat employees based on their merit, not their medical condition,” said EEOC senior trial attorney Devika Seth, the lead attorney on the case. “We are proud that Mr. Hurst came forward and asserted his right to work in an environment free from disability discrimination and harassment.”
Toby Wosk Costas, the EEOC’s supervisory trial attorney, stated, “The evidence showed that management assumed Mr. Hurst was no longer qualified for the job he had been promised because of his MS diagnosis. It’s just such ‘myths, fears and stereotypes’ about people with disabilities that the ADA was passed to combat.”
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.
By Stephen Pate, NJN Network