Calif. store manager files COVID suit alleging he was fired for complaining

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Many of Miller’s allegations against the dealership revolve around what the suit describes as a failure and delays in allowing him to take requested paternity and family medical leave to care for his spouse in the months after she gave birth to twins in November. But the complaint also alleges that as COVID-19 began to spread in the region, the dealership “encouraged [employees] to continue carrying on business as usual.”

Among the operating practices that continued, the suit says, was allowing sales employees to take test drives with consumers without masks or gloves. The complaint also alleges that “surfaces were not being cleaned” and that the dealership “failed to properly sanitize cars before, during and after their use.”

The complaint alleges that after raising concerns with store management about its pandemic operating protocols, and being permitted to take a temporary leave to care for his wife and children, Miller was notified that he had been terminated April 22 when he returned to work.

Rusnak is a family-owned auto group representing 14 brands, primarily luxury, in several communities in Southern California.

The auto group, in a statement, denied Miller’s allegations and said it plans to defend itself “in the appropriate forum.”

“Rusnak Automotive Group is deeply dedicated to caring for the health and well-being of all of its customers and employees. It has spent, and continues to spend, countless time and effort at great expense to comply with all applicable and appropriate [health] agency guidance during the COVID-19 crisis and developed and implemented best practices with the goal of protecting the health and safety of its customers and employees,” the statement said, adding that it would not comment further on the specifics of pending litigation.

Rusnak’s website lays out the steps that the auto group says it maintained in stores, going back to posts from March 13, when the group said it had enhanced dealership cleaning practices, altered service policies to bolster cleaning protocols and asked sales team members to stop shaking hands with customers.

Its showrooms were closed for a month after California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared vehicle sales nonessential during the pandemic, but a post dated April 24, when the group’s stores reopened, says the dealerships were limiting the number of visitors and ensuring suggested social distancing guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were followed.

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Saurabh Shukla

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