A man who alleges he was fired in April from his sales manager job at a Pasadena Audi dealership because he complained that management failed to take steps to protect employees and customers during the coronavirus pandemic has agreed to arbitrate his claims.
After being presented with the accord reached between Aaron Miller and Rusnak Automotive Group, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Randolph A. Hammock on Tuesday placed a stay on the plaintiff’s lawsuit pending the completion of arbitration before retired Judge Michelle R. Rosenblatt.
Miller sued May 19 alleging retaliation, violation of the California Family Rights Act and discrimination. He sought more than $3 million in damages.
“For all purposes, during the time Mr. Miller was notifying management about Rusnak’s inaction and continued practices, Rusnak did not take the pandemic nor Mr. Miller seriously,” the suit alleges. “Rusnak’s refusal to follow health guidelines was a danger to everyone.”
Miller was hired by Rusnak in November 2014 and worked at the automotive group’s Audi dealership in the 200 block of West Colorado Boulevard. As the general sales manager, he was considered an important member of the company and an exemplary employee, according to his court papers.
During early March, after Los Angeles County declared an emergency as a result of the coronavirus, Rusnak failed to maintain proper safety procedures on their property, posing “an immediate and apparent hazard, not only to Mr. Miller, but also to company employees,” the suit alleges.
Miller says he began to complain to management about the alleged lack of safety measures in the workplace and the “blatant disregard for health and safety measures at Rusnak to safeguard employees and customers from becoming infected.”
For example, Rusnak continued to have sales employees get into the same car as a test driver and travel with them around without masks or gloves, according to the suit. Spacing and safe distancing were not implemented, surfaces were not cleaned and Rusnak failed to properly sanitize cars before, during and after use, the suit alleges.
Management encouraged employees to continue carrying on business as usual and ignored Miller’s concerns, despite having the responsibility to safeguard employees, the suit alleges.
“Rusnak’s failures caused Mr. Miller to experience a tremendous amount of anxiety and stress…,” the suit states.
Miller was granted permission by Rusnak in late March to use the remainder of his available paternity leave stemming from the birth of his twins last November. But when he returned from leave April 22, the company told him he had been fired, the suit states.