Car dealership pays $325K to settle allegations it fired an executive to avoid paying for his cancer treatments

Dive Brief:

  • Texarkana, Texas-based Gregg Orr Auto Collection, Inc., will pay $325,000 to settle U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allegations that it fired a 65-year-old senior sales executive to avoid paying for his cancer treatments. 
  • According to the complaint, filed by EEOC last September, the employer maintained a self-insured healthcare plan, making it “directly responsible for its employees’ medical expenses.” Gregg Orr Auto fired the worker shortly after receiving a bill for more than $150,000, and replaced him with a worker in his 30s, EEOC said.
  • Under the terms of the consent decree, Gregg Orr Auto will update its anti-discrimination policies and train upper management on disability and age discrimination compliance.

Dive Insight:

While the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from firing workers because of a medical condition, the practice still continues, according to the EEOC.

The law even applies when the intention is apparently well-meaning — often called “benevolent discrimination.” In 2021, for example, the agency filed a lawsuit against a natural gas well company that fired a worker with a history of cancer in March 2020 because the owner didn’t want him to contract COVID-19. The company paid $184,000 to settle the claims. 

“Many employees diagnosed with cancer choose to work through their condition — because, after all, they still have to make ends meet,” EEOC’s Philadelphia district director said in a press release announcing that company’s agreement to settle the case. “This employee lost his job because this employer failed to provide full inclusion for people with disabilities.”

In another case, also involving an auto dealership, a joint employer group allegedly fired a worker and told her to “focus on her health” after she was hospitalized and disclosed she was undergoing treatment for cancer. The employers settled with the EEOC for $150,000. 

In the case of Gregg Orr Auto, the EEOC further alleged age discrimination — a bias area of increasing concern for the agency — due to the worker’s replacement with an employee in his mid-30s. The EEOC filed 13 lawsuits under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act last year, according to an analysis by law firm Seyfarth — a notable increase from six in fiscal year 2022 and one in FY 2021.