Ex-Motor Werks salesman's costly sale of rare Land Rover reason for termination, not age discrimination: Judge

By Angela Underwood | Jan 12, 2018

A Chicago federal judge has shown the door to counts of discrimination, interference and retaliation brought against sububran auto dealer Motor Werks of Barrington by a former salesman, who claimed the company wrongly fired him amid a flap over the sale of a rare Land Rover vehicle that cost the dealership money.

CHICAGO — A Chicago federal judge has shown the door to counts of discrimination, interference and retaliation brought against sububran auto dealer Motor Werks of Barrington by a former salesman, who claimed the company wrongly fired him amid a flap over the sale of a rare Land Rover vehicle that cost the dealership money.

U.S. District Judge Maria Valdez issued the decision in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Jan. 4.

In the opinion, Valdez dismissed one count of an alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), one count of an alleged violation of the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA) and two counts of alleged interference and retaliation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

James Larson was 72 years old when he applied for and was hired by Motor Werks in 2011 as a car salesman. However, two years later, he was hospitalized two years later for a heart condition. According to Larson, his sales manager told him to not worry about his employment and focus on healing. Upon his return, Larson reported additional heart issues that affected his 12-hour work day, but was purportedly once again told not to worry about losing his job over it.

During his temporary absence, the sales manager emailed all employees regarding the dealership's opportunity to sell a rare 2013 Land Rover Supercharged vehicle. The email purportedly specified the vehicle needed to be sold within Motor Werks' designated Land Rover geographic sales region. 

Larson said he never received the email. Without the correct information, Larson allegedly sold the vehicle for the wrong amount to a buyer in downstate Illinois, costing the dealership profit. He was terminated from his position shortly after. However, the only reason given for his firing was that the Motor Werks was “going in a different direction.”

"Around the time Larson was fired, four other ‘older’ employees of unspecified age were among the number of people who were terminated by [the] defendant,” Valdez noted in the opinion.

Valdez addressed Motor Werks' move for summary judgement on all four counts—ADA disability discrimination, ADEA discrimination, FMLA interference and FMLA retaliation. 

Valdez noted the Larson never supplied "evidence in the record that Larson ever notified Motor Werks of the actual or potential need for an accommodation for either of his disabilities."

“... Even assuming [the] plaintiff had made a prima facie case of discriminatory termination, [the] defendant has offered a legitimate, non-pretextual reason for the employment decision, namely the sale of the RR S/C outside the local area,” Valdez wrote.

Lastly, the two counts of FMLA interference and retaliation were also dismissed against Motor Werks.

“As with his ADA discrimination claim, Larson has not demonstrated that the timing of the termination was suspicious, nor has he shown that any similarly situated employees were treated different or that the stated reason for the termination was pretextual,” Valdez wrote.

Larson is represented in the case by attorney David L. Lee, of Chicago.

Motor Werks is represented by the firm of Molzahn, Reed Rouse & Berger LLC, of Chicago.

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Law Offices of David L. Lee Motor Werks of Barrington U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

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