A former general sales manager at a Pasadena Audi dealership is suing his ex-employer, alleging he suffered a backlash and was fired in April after complaining that management failed to take steps to protect employees and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aaron Miller’s lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court accused Rusnak Automotive Group and Rusnak Pasadena Inc. of retaliation, violation of the California Family Rights Act and discrimination. He seeks more than $3 million in the complaint filed Tuesday.
“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 states. “Rusnak’s refusal to follow health guidelines was a danger to everyone.”
A Rusnak representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
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, according to the lawsuit, and as general sales manager he was considered an important member of the company and an exemplary employee.
During early March, after Los Angeles County declared an emergency as a result of the Coronavirus, the suit claims 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.”
Miller 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,” the suit states.
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, according to the suit.
“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, the suit says, but when Miller returned from leave April 22, the company told him he had been fired.