Former Sears Mechanic Sues Over Firing; Says He Wouldn’t Cheat Customers
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A former Sears auto mechanic who says he was fired because he refused to cheat customers has filed a $1 million wrongful discharge lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the wake of allegations by California and New Jersey officials of widespread fraudulent practices at Sears, Roebuck and Co. Auto Centers.
Jerry Waddy, 50, said he was fired from the San Bruno Auto Center on the San Francisco Peninsula last July 15 after refusing to follow supervisors’ suggestions that he meet quotas by cutting corners on oil changes and radiator servicing.
Other mechanics complied and also were pressured to encourage customers to have additional work done, he said.
Waddy is suing Sears for lost wages, vacation time, health benefits, pension money, as well as damages, said his lawyer, Paul Wotman.
″We want to make clear that employers may not seek to increase their profits by requiring employees to participate in illegal acts without being held accountable,″ Wotman said, adding that this was the first such lawsuit by a Sears auto employee.
A spokeswoman for Chicago-based Sears, Mary Jean Houde, said the company had not seen the lawsuit and would not comment.
The lawsuit coincided with the start of a national advertising campaign in which the retail chain tried to win back customer confidence.
Sears on Monday ended commissions and sales goals in its auto shops, practices state officials blamed for unnecessary repairs.
The company has admitted mistakes were made but denied a pattern of wrongdoing.
California officials moved this month to revoke or suspend Sears’ repair licenses after they found an average of $223 worth of unnecessary work per car. New Jersey officials cited six auto shops last week for recommending unnecessary repairs.
Sears Chairman Edward Brennan said an investigation also has begun in Florida, and that he believes the change Monday will lead to settlement of the California charges.
Meanwhile, San Jose lawyer Richard Alexander said six class-action lawsuits have been filed in California on behalf of Sears consumers.
Lawyers said that Waddy, 50, began working for Sears as a warehouse employee in 1970 and was transferred to the Auto Center in the mid-1980s despite having no training as a mechanic.
At that time, the company reduced his hourly wage from $12.60 to $11 and instituted a system of incentives and quotas that required him to complete a certain number of jobs each day.
When Waddy protested that he could not complete the work, a supervisor told him to cut the corners.
He initially refused, but complied when he was threatened with dismissal, the brief alleges. He was fired a week after he complained to the store manager about the policy.