A luxury car dealership is accused of firing an employee who warned others about a COVID-19 outbreak, telling him 'his only job was to fix cars'
Hi Tech Motorcars is accused of firing a worker in December 2020 who warned others there was a COVID-19 case.
"I feel it is important to inform all employees of the current situation," the man wrote in an email.
The company sells cars from Audi, Maserati, Porsche, Aston Martin, Bentley, Lotus, and Rolls-Royce.
When a worker at a high-end car dealership in Austin, Texas, learned one of his colleagues had tested positive for COVID-19, he did what the company would not: tell others. He was fired within the hour, according to a lawsuit filed by the US Department of Labor, management telling him that "his only job was to fix cars."
In the lawsuit, filed this month in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, the department says the whistleblower is due back pay and punitive damages, arguing that his only offense was warning others about a threat to their health at Hi Tech Motorcars in Austin, Texas - which is no crime at all.
"This employee acted out of real concern for their safety and that of their coworkers, and their actions are protected under federal law," the Labor Department's John Rainwater said in a statement.
According to the October 6 complaint, the employee was distressed to learn in December 2020 that there had been an outbreak at the car dealership, which sells high-end vehicles from Porsche, Bentley, and Rolls-Royce. Management did nothing to inform others of their potential exposure, according to the lawsuit, so the employee did it himself.
"It has come to my attention that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19," the man wrote in an email to staff. "I feel it is important to inform all employees of the current situation."
Within the hour, the employee was fired, the company maintaining that he had outed the employee who had tested positive - which, the Department of Labor says, he did not.
Defendants are accused of violating federal whistleblower protections enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which encourages workers to report potential health hazards at the workplace. If found guilty, the dealership could be forced to provide back pay and punitive damages.
An attorney for Hi Tech Motorcars did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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