Candace Carney was one of the top sales professionals at Mercedes-Benz of Cherry Hill, but that didn’t stop her employer from firing her after she voiced concerns over non-compliance with COVID-19 guidelines. Now the successful saleswoman is suing the auto dealership, accusing them of violating New Jersey safety laws and of retaliating against her for speaking up about their lapses.
According to the suit, the Cherry Hill, New Jersey auto dealership followed Governor Phil Murphy’s orders in early March, joining most other New Jersey businesses in furloughing employees at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. But when the dealership reopened on May 19th, employees failed to comply with the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management’s guidelines for protecting customers and employees. Though they were supposed to impose occupancy limits, sanitize all vehicles after each test drive, enforce social distancing and face covering requirements and only see customers who had pre-registered for appointments, the employees and the patrons disregarded these orders.
Carney indicated that she was “horrified” by the lack of adherence to rules meant to protect her, her co-workers and clients coming into the dealership, especially in light of the frightening local statistics regarding COVID-19. To date there have been more than 165,000 New Jersey residents confirmed to have the virus and over 12,000 who have died. There were 23 new cases confirmed in Camden County, where the dealership is located, in the past week.
According to the lawsuit, Ms. Carney attempted to convince her colleagues to comply and "repeatedly blew the whistle to management" in an effort to have the guidelines followed. Instead she found herself being “berated” and ridiculed for her efforts, which included photographing those who were not wearing masks. The lawsuit indicates that her own efforts at social distancing met with her being “scolded and reprimanded” for having insisted on not bringing customers into her cramped cubicle space as other salespeople did. "The customer was insulted because … all of the other salespeople had their customers inside their small cubicles in violation of the administrative order," says the suit. Though she pointed out that those who were not adhering to the rules were the ones that should be reprimanded and counseled, three days after her return from furlough she found herself without a job over what a manager had previously referred to as her “COVID anxiety.”
Ms. Carney is seeking compensation including back wages for the unlawful actions of her former employer. She is being represented by Cherry Hill, New Jersey attorney Alan Schorr. If you find yourself facing similar retaliation over concerns about non-compliance with state or federal guidance, you may be eligible to file a similar claim. Call our office to set up a time for a personal consultation about your situation.