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Seattle Dealership’s $5,000,000 Lesson – Blog #70

The October federal court settlement in a Seattle case presents another ‘go-giver’ opportunity for ergonomic evaluators, occupational therapists, and physical therapists.

What Makes this a Go-Giver Moment?

A ‘Go-Giver1’ moment occurs when the opportunity to use your knowledge and good nature assists another human being. In many respects, a go-giver moment is a ‘pay-it-forward’ without any cost to the giver. Try this, remind each of your business clients to examine pending employment termination actions for the influence of:

  • An employee’s health status on the decision
  • The presence of existing reasonable accommodations (formal or informal) which will be withdrawn as a result of the action
  • Resistance by a manager or business owner to engage in an interactive conversation about a change in health or accommodation status
  • Perceived fear of potential future cost, negative customer reaction, or inconvenience of an employee’s disability

Remind your contacts that they may be the only ‘adult in the room’ with knowledge of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Their awareness of the necessity to address disability barriers to employment may be the only voice of reason in an otherwise anxious situation.

The Details of the Case

Details of the case come from federal court records (Case No. C17-187 RSM (W.D. Wash. Apr. 5, 2018), the reporting of Seattle’s KOMO News, and Seattle Times staff reporter Christine Clarridge2.

Troy Coachman was a 14-year employee of the Mercedes-Benz dealership on Airport Way in Seattle when he was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a laryngectomy at the end of 2014.

By the beginning of 2015, Coachman had been cleared by his physicians to return to his job as finance director for Mercedes-Benz of Seattle.

Just before returning to work, Coachman visited the dealership and ran into the owner, Al Monjazeb, and the two shook hands and talked briefly, according to court documents.  Coachman was still recovering and was on voice rest, according to his attorneys. The lawsuit and trial documents allege that Monjazeb, based on that single brief meeting, decided Coachman could no longer do his job. Apparently, exploration of Coachman’s ability to perform the physical and cognitive demands of the essential functions of his job, with or without reasonable accommodation, was not explored.

The lawsuit and trial documents indicate that Monjazeb repeatedly refused to meet again with Coachman. Although he was not personally responsible for addressing Coachman’s civil right to be treated without employment discrimination, Monjazeb stepped out of compliance when he instructed his managers to not discuss Coachman’s employment status with him when he returned to the office in January 2015. The preferred instruction would have been to refer Coachmen to a qualified Washington State or federal ADA Title I program manager.

Coachman is currently working as finance director for the Larson Automotive Group of Fife, Puyallup, and Tacoma.

More

1 The Go-Giver: A Surprising Way of Getting More Than You Expect by Bob Burg

2 Excerpts are taken from reporting by Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times staff reporter. Originally published on October 11, 2018, at 7:05 pm. Updated on October 12, 2018, at 6:16 am.

 

News of this case was shared by Seattle-area physical therapist Lynda White.

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