Pete’s Car Smart Reaches $145,000 Settlement in Age and Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

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In a significant turn of events, Pete’s Car Smart, an Amarillo-based car dealership, has agreed to a $145,000 settlement to resolve allegations of age and disability discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination, announced the settlement today, highlighting a commitment to justice and equality in the workplace.


The lawsuit stemmed from accusations that Pete’s Car Smart unjustly fired a long-serving employee following her heart surgery, coupled with derogatory remarks about her age. The EEOC detailed that the employee, who dedicated nearly 18 years of service to the dealership, took a short medical leave in early 2021 for bypass heart surgery. Upon planning her return, she was confronted by the company’s owner with demands for her retirement, threatening dismissal on the grounds that she was supposedly unfit to continue her duties. Adding insult to injury, the owner ridiculed her appearance and made age-related derogatory comments, indicating a clear disregard for her capabilities and rights.


Such actions not only undermine the principles of dignity and respect in the employment sector but also violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Both laws prohibit discrimination based on disability and age, respectively. The EEOC took legal action, filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Amarillo Division, after attempts to settle the matter out of court did not succeed.


The resolution of the lawsuit includes a three-year consent decree, offering not just monetary compensation to the aggrieved former employee but also significant non-monetary measures to prevent future discrimination. Pete’s Car Smart is committed to creating an equitable work environment, which involves formulating new procedures for reasonable accommodation requests and discrimination reports. Moreover, the dealership has pledged to conduct annual training sessions on these new protocols and the broader aspects of employment discrimination laws, with the owner also participating in the training facilitated by an external party.


The EEOC’s involvement and subsequent settlement signal a broader message to employers in Amarillo and beyond about the critical importance of fostering a non-discriminatory work environment. By recognizing the value of seasoned employees and adhering to legal standards for fair treatment, businesses can contribute to a culture of respect and inclusion.


EEOC Trial Attorneys Brooke López and Brian Hawthorne, alongside Assistant Regional Attorney Suzanne Anderson, played pivotal roles in litigating the case. Their efforts underscore the EEOC’s dedication to addressing and rectifying workplace discrimination, hoping this case serves as a catalyst for positive changes across the employment landscape.


In the words of López, the resolution aims to inspire widespread improvements in employment practices, extending the impact of the consent decree well into the future. Regional Attorney Robert Canino emphasized the essence of leadership in promoting a non-discriminatory workplace, asserting that respect for employees’ tenure and service should guide employer actions rather than succumbing to unfounded biases related to age or health.


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