Woman Awarded $186 Million After AutoZone Fires Her For Getting Pregnant

On Tuesday, a federal jury  awarded nearly $186 million to a woman from San Diego who claimed AutoZone mistreated her because she was a woman, eventually demoting and firing her because she became pregnant.

The plaintiff, 43-year-old Rosario Juarez, had begun working as a customer service representative at one of the AutoZone stores in 2000. She was then promoted to parts sales manager in April 2001 and became a store manager in October 2004.

However, things changed when Juarez became pregnant with her first child in September 2005. When she told her manager that she was pregnant, Juarez claims he told her that he felt sorry for her. He also began to yell at her and mistreat her, even though her sales team continued to meet or surpass sales targets. Juarez was also told by the district manager that she should return to parts sales while she was pregnant because she couldn’t handle the demands of being store manager.

Photo Credit: Tom Jenkins / Guardian

Photo Credit: Tom Jenkins / Guardian

After the birth of her son, Juarez was demoted and her pay was decreased. After the demotion, Juarez was required to wait a year before seeking her former job as sales manager. Once that year had passed, she tried to re-acquire her former position only to be denied by the district manager and terminated in 2008. Juarez filed a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

During the trial, the former district manager who had fired Juarez admitted that he’d been encouraged to fire women in management positions by an AutoZone vice president. The vice president had said to him:

 “What are we running here, a boutique? Get rid of those women.”

The seven-person jury, consisting of five men and two women, ruled that Juarez had been discriminated against and terminated because of her gender.  The award includes $872,720 in compensatory damages and another $185 million in punitive damages.

According to attorney Sean Simpson, part of the team representing Juarez, this is far from the first time AutoZone has treated its female employees unfairly. He said:

“This is the third or fourth time they’ve been hit with punitive damages for doing the same thing. Let’s hope they get the message.”

Next week, AutoZone will go back to court with the intention of reducing the award. According to a company spokesman: 

“We believe this verdict could not be based on the evidence or logic, and we plan to proceed with all legal remedies.”