Jury Orders AutoZone To Pay Former Employee $185M For Pregnancy Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Pregnancy Discrimination Act forbids companies from discriminating against employees based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment including hiring, firing, promotions and demotions. So when a former employee accused AutoZone of illegally demoting and then firing her after she became pregnant, the woman sued the company. And this week a California jury ruled in her favor, ordering the auto parts retailer to pay her $185 million.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a federal jury found that AutoZone unlawfully demoted and fired the employee who complained she was demoted and fired from a San Diego County store just because she was pregnant.

The woman claimed the company began to treat her differently after she told a district manager in 2005 that she had become pregnant.

During her discussion with the district manager, the woman claims he told her “Congratulations…I guess. I feel sorry for you.”

Shortly after the encounter, the woman says the company began complaining about her performance and demoted her from a management position.

When she filed a lawsuit challenging the demotion in 2006, she says the company fired her.

The L.A. Times reports that AutoZone’s lawyers argued at trial that the woman was fired for misplacing $400 in cash, not because she was with child.

However, the loss prevention officer who handled the misplaced cash investigation testified that the woman was never suspected of wrongdoing and she believed the company was targeting the former employee.

The jury’s award of $185 million in punitive damages comes in addition to $872,000 in compensatory damages the jury awarded the woman last week.

Officials with AutoZone tell the Times they plan to appeal the decision.

Jury awards $185 million to ex-AutoZone worker demoted after pregnancy [The Los Angeles Times]