Randall Ford in Fort Smith, Ark., has been ordered to pay a former used-car manager $128,750 after failing to accommodate his post-spinal surgery disability and then firing him, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said last week.
The payment is part of a settlement between the dealership and the EEOC, which filed suit against Randall Ford. The former used-car manager joined in the EEOC’s suit.
Randall Ford hired Doyle Martin, now 72, as a used-car manager in March 2011. But in June 2012, Martin needed surgery to remove a mass on his lower spine. He took a medical leave of absence until July, court documents said.
Martin came out of the surgery with a diminished ability to walk and stand. He was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, which affects the nerves that connect his lower back to his legs.
Now he needs a walker for balance and mobility, and qualifies as a person with a disability who can perform essential functions of his position with reasonable accommodations, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to court documents.
When he started working again, Martin suggested he use a golf cart to travel long distances across the dealership and requested assistance when test driving trade-ins to assess their value, court documents said.
Instead, according to those documents, the dealership failed to accommodate Martin after he became disabled and fired him in August 2012.
Martin has searched for other jobs since but has not been rehired, said Pamela Dixon, a lawyer representing the EEOC in the case.
No prior warnings
In the lawsuit, Martin said he had never received any warnings regarding his work performance before his surgery. But after his surgery, on July 24, 2012, the dealership’s managers gave Martin a written warning report for what they felt was an inappropriate purchase of 39 used vehicles and for his use of a “new” demo vehicle instead of a “used” demo vehicle.
All of the managers at Randall Ford were permitted to drive a demo. The dealership felt that because Martin was a used-car manager, he should have a used-car demo, Martin’s attorney, Joe Byars, said.
Now Randall Ford is facing the consequences. In addition to paying Martin $128,750 in back pay and compensatory damages, the dealership must revise, within 45 days, its written ADA policy to include the name and contact information for an ADA official and details of the reasonable accommodation process.
All employees must review and sign the revised policy. The settlement also ordered the dealership to provide ADA training sessions for its employees.
Randall Ford’s lawyers did not respond to phone calls and emails today, and Martin’s attorney said he could not comment on the case.
Jalopnik first reported the settlement on Saturday.