Pregnancy discrimination case against AutoZone results in $185M verdict

Autozone-410x323Federal jury in San Diego awarded nearly $186 million in punitive damages to a store manager at AutoZone after finding that the company retaliated against the pregnant manager, in the end demoting her and firing her.

Rosario Juarez, 43, was awarded about $873,000 in compensatory damages and $185 million in punitive damages report Reuters, the Wall Street JournalUT San Diego and ABC 10 News.

According to UT San Diego, it is believed to be the largest verdict awarded to an individual in employment case in U. S. history. The Wall Street Journal suggests the awarded amount could test the upper limits of awards in employment discrimination cases.

AutoZone is planning to appeal in order to reduce the award.  The company claims that they demoted Juarez due to her poor performance, and her employment termination was caused by $400 missing in a register.

Juarez alleged that her boss repeatedly suggested she would give up managing position once she became pregnant in 2005. The harassment continued after she gave birth, and Juarez was demoted to lower position of parts sales manager in 2006. She was asked to work extra long hours in her new position, redo her work for no apparent reason and was yelled at and humiliated in front of her colleagues. Juarez said her complaints about the situation were ignored. Finally, she filed a lawsuit and was fired  soon afterwards. The suit alleged wrongful termination and pregnancy and gender discrimination.

According to the lawsuit records, AutoZone vice president scolded district manager for hiring too many women, and the manager was offered a promotion if he fired all the women in his store. The loss prevention officer who handled investigation into the missing cash testified that she never suspected Juarez. The officer filed her own gender discrimination lawsuit against AutoZone.

After two weeks of testimony, the federal jury unanimously held AutoZone liable on all counts, including gender/pregnancy discrimination, retaliation and failure to prevent harassment.

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