The California Court of Appeal rejected a suit by a former service and parts director who claimed a Thousand Oaks dealership group wrongly fired him after 13 years for raising concerns about workplace safety.
Ernest Sumen alleged that Silver Star Automotive Group, terminated him in 2012 for complaining about an unsafe hoist that he had red-tagged as out of service.
He worked at the group’s Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar dealerships, according to court filings.
Silver Star countered that its action was justified because Sumen failed to properly oversee repairs of equipment and remedy unsafe shop working conditions. It said technicians continued to use the tagged hoist, which he hadn’t repaired or replaced.
In its unanimous decision, the court ruled that Sumen didn’t provide enough evidence that Silver Star retaliated against him for reporting the defective hoist. It cited testimony from the group’s human resources director that she fired Sumen for not ensuring workplace safety, which the court said “he might have done by enforcing the hoist’s decommission.
“Sumen essentially admitted to the failure when he admitted he was unaware employees continued to use the defective hoist,” the court added.
Lee Sherman, a lawyer for Silver Star, called the ruling “righteous and fair.” Sumen’s lawyers didn’t respond to a request for comment.