Stinson Leonard Street Attorneys Deliver Courtroom Win In EEOC Discrimination Case
Stinson Leonard Street LLP partners Carrie M. Francis and Lonnie J. Williams, Jr., delivered a victory at the end of October for their client, auto dealer BMW of Tucson, in a case of discrimination by national origin brought by the Phoenix District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of two claimants. The EEOC was represented by attorneys Christopher R. Houk and Richard I. Sexton, as well as regional attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. The five-day trial in federal court ended after less than a half hour's deliberation when the eight-person jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the dealership on all counts.
"We're grateful to the court and to the jury for providing an exemplary forum for our client's case to be heard and for the facts of this case to be judged," said Francis. "This matter should have never been filed, much less brought to trial; the jury's speed in returning its verdict simply underscores the weakness of the government's case." Attempts were made to settle the case prior to trial, simply to avoid costs with no admission of liability by the dealership, but the EEOC refused to settle without a consent decree and press release suggesting that some wrong doing had occurred.
"Every employer needs to be sensitive to issues of discrimination in the workplace," said Williams. "It's objectionable, as happened here, when those legitimate concerns are used as a false pretext to challenge an employer's legitimate rights to manage its employees and to ensure that work is done to appropriate safety and quality standards."
In its arguments, the EEOC alleged that two dealership service technicians were repeatedly subjected to hostile and offensive comments based on the fact that one was an immigrant from Poland and the other was from Germany. The government further alleged that when the employees complained they were subjected to retaliation and ultimately fired from the dealership.
Francis, Williams and the Stinson Leonard Street legal team, however, successfully argued that the two technicians were not the victims of harassment and were instead terminated for poor workmanship, failing to perform safety-related maintenance procedures in accordance with manufacturer standards and dishonesty.
"These terminations were justified because one walked off the job, and the other falsified a customer repair," Francis told jurors in her opening statement to the jury.
Francis noted that managers repeatedly warned one of the claimants about his messy workstation and for damaging other cars adjacent to his work area. The technician was ultimately terminated for incorrectly documenting repairs as well as having left work early without permission. The second technician was terminated for having made a non-standard repair to the electric lines on the braking system of a customer's car and then for falsely creating a repair order on the car for work that wasn't done.