An eight person San Diego federal court jury recently awarded Rosario Juarez $185 million dollars against AutoZone because the corporation didn’t like women working at stores, especially in management positions. According to the lawsuit, the corporate philosophy was summed up by the Vice President for Western Operations during a visit to a store staffed by a female manager and other women. He allegedly took the district manager aside and said: “What are we running here, a boutique? Get rid of these women.”
This is exactly what was done with Ms. Juarez, who was demoted after becoming pregnant. To cover their tracks, the company alleged she was responsible for a $400 cash shortage. Even the investigating loss prevention officer said there was no reason to suspect Ms. Juarez. She too has sued AutoZone. Additional testimony would cause any decent person to wonder how such conduct can still occur in today’s hyper-legal work environment.
AutoZone will no doubt file an appeal. Under the Federal Rules a significant bond may be required (“In a civil case, the district court may require an appellant to file a bond or provide other security in any form and amount necessary to ensure payment of costs on appeal. Rule 8(b) applies to a surety on a bond given under this rule.”). That bond requirement can be the entire verdict amount unless the Court feels like being more lenient.
The attorneys on the case have already won multi-million dollar lawsuits against AutoZone. You can expect to see several copycat filings given the testimony offered and the sizable verdict.
Lessons to be learned: for AutoZone, perhaps none. Apparently one of the responsible managers still has his job and AutoZone stock as of this writing has hit a record high. Unless there are some corporate officers, Board Members or powerful shareholders who care, chances are little will change. For everyone else, train your managers on discrimination, including the “glass ceiling”. Hire people for their talent and do not stereotype them…or you too will risk a substantial verdict.
Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit www.ThinkHR.com.