West Texas Employer Settles Disability Discrimination Suit

A West Texas auto dealership has agreed to pay to settle a discrimination suit filed by the EEOC alleging that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) following the forced resignation of dealership manager, Randall Hurst after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Prior to his diagnosis, Hurst was recruited by the dealership with promises that included a future ownership interest in the dealership. After accepting the job, Hurst successfully managed the dealership for approximately six months until he revealed his diagnosis to management.

The suit also alleged that prior to terminating Mr. Hurst, he was subjected to a hostile work environment after his supervisor made 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.

Following the successful resolution of the suit on his behalf, Hurst said: “Today is not about me, or about monetary compensation – today is a win for everyone who has multiple sclerosis,” said Randall Hurst. “MS changed my life forever, and I hope that this case changes the lives of others that are in the workforce with MS, for the positive.”

The ADA is a federal anti-discrimination law that prohibits discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

The ADA also forbids harassment of an employee because he has a disability, had a disability in the past, or is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he does not have such an impairment). Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about a person’s disability. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment (or in the way things are usually done) to help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform the duties of a job, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment. Reasonable accommodation might include, for example, making the workplace accessible for wheelchair users or providing a reader or interpreter for someone who is blind or hearing impaired.

Dallas based attorney, Ty Gomez regularly represents individuals with disabilities from unlawful discrimination in the workplace. Our Dallas employment lawyers routinely work with EEOC investigators and mediators to resolve claims of discrimination under the ADA and other anti-discrimination laws.