Saleswoman Unlawfully Fired Because of Her MS, Federal Agency Charges
RENO, Nev. - Three integrated Nevada-based car dealerships will pay $50,000 to an employee who was fired because of her multiple sclerosis and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The dealerships are Liberty Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge LLC in Winnemucca; Internet Auto Rent and Sales, Inc. in Reno; and Internet Auto Rent and Sales of Las Vegas, Inc.
According to EEOC, in October 2010, about three months after starting as a commissioned salesperson at the Winnemuca dealership, Shara Rynearson notified her supervisor that she was experiencing a sudden change in vision, numbness in half of her face and loss of balance, and went to an emergency room. The next day, Rynearson presented her supervisor with hospital documents that tentatively diagnosed multiple sclerosis and noted the doctors' instructions not to work until after a neurological appointment to confirm the diagnosis. She also later brought in a doctor's note excusing her absence from work. Instead of allowing Rynearson to take medical leave for the diagnosis and treatment of her disability, her employer fired her on November 5, 2010.
"Losing my job made my MS diagnosis so much more stressful and terrifying," said Rynearson. "Thanks to EEOC's lawsuit and this settlement, I hope no one else will have to endure an experience like mine."
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. After an investigation by EEOC Investigator Carlos Rocha and first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, EEOC filed U.S. EEOC v. Liberty Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge LLC, Internet Auto Rent & Sales of Las Vegas Inc., and Internet Auto Rent & Sales Inc., Case No. 3:15-CV-00232-HDM-VPC, in U.S. District Court of Nevada.
Under the three-year consent decree settling the suit, the companies agree to pay Rynearson monetary relief and also provide annual training on disability discrimination for all employees, revise personnel policies, post notices about the resolution of the lawsuit, revise performance evaluations for managers to include compliance with the ADA, and report over a three-year period to EEOC.
EEOC San Francisco Trial Attorney Siri Thanasombat said, "Managers must understand their responsibilities to provide medical leave as a reasonable accommodation when required under the ADA. We are glad to see these dealerships will be taking steps to ensure their staff is educated."
EEOC San Francisco District Director William Tamayo added, "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 workforce. We filed this lawsuit to defend the rights of workers with disabilities to a level playing field when it comes to employment."
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.