PORTLAND – Keeping car salesmen honest may not be the way to keep your job in Oregon.
In a unanimous opinion, the Oregon Supreme Court rejected a wrongful discharge claim by a veteran sales manager who was fired from a car dealership. Kevin Lamson said he was let go after he told his bosses he wanted no part of a sales campaign he believed included deceptive ads and sales practices.
Lamson sued Crater Lake Motors in Medford and won in trial court. But the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the decision Thursday, saying there was no evidence Lamson had been ordered to violate any ethical standard or law.
Instead, Lamson had refused to participate in a weeklong sales event by an outside company the dealership hired to boost used car sales.
Lamson had taken part in a previous sales event managed by Real Performance Marketing and told his bosses he observed tactics he believed to be unethical and illegal, including “payment packing” by inflating monthly payments with life insurance and service contracts without the customer’s knowledge.
He met with the owner of Crater Lake Motors, Jim Coleman, and wrote letters to Coleman warning him about Real Performance Marketing and what he viewed as “consistent misrepresentation, fraudulent action, deceit, lying, immoral conduct, unethical conduct and illegal actions.”
Coleman responded with a letter saying “the present concern is not with the business operations of Crater Lake Motors, but rather with your duties as an employee.”
In an opinion by Justice W. Michael Gillette, the Supreme Court sided with Coleman and the dealership, saying that an internal whistleblower complaint about business practices that pose no threat to public health or safety is not protected.
Gillette wrote that Lamson’s complaint “did not involve interests of sufficient public importance to support a claim that plaintiff (Lamson) was discharged for fulfilling an important societal obligation.”
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