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Multi-million dollar verdict in employment discrimination case

Many people in Florida are familiar with the distinctive AutoZone sign. Regardless of the company's reputation as a distributor of car parts, one out-of-state woman has alleged that the company fosters a culture that prevents women from being promoted to store managers. In a recent employment discrimination case, one woman alleges that the company was reluctant, if not unwilling, to promote her, and she was reportedly demoted after having a child.

The plaintiff in the case was hired as a customer service representative in 2001. The next year, she was promoted to parts sales manager.  She was eventually promoted to general manager in 2004, but she says that promotion came only after she complained about not receiving a promotion due her gender. She argues that the attitude toward women is so negative in the company as a whole that a vice president visiting a location with several female employees commented that their stores are not a boutique, and the woman she be gotten rid of. In the recent trial, one manager even testified that he was promised a promotion for terminating his female employees.

The woman claims more problems arose when she became pregnant. Her boss allegedly advised her to step down on more than one occasion because she would not be able to handle the job responsibilities while pregnant. After her child was born, she says, she was demoted. In her new position, she says she was forced to work longer hours and was frequently humiliated. AutoZone claims she was demoted for performance-related issues.

She filed a lawsuit against the company in 2008 and was terminated a month later. The company claims she was fired over missing money. However, the loss prevention officer who investigated the incident claims the plaintiff was unfairly targeted and not involved with the missing money.

In a unanimous verdict, a jury awarded the woman over $800,000 in compensatory damages and punitive damages in the amount of $185 million, the largest verdict of punitive damages in the country. A representative for the company says it will appeal. Unfortunately, there are many people in Florida who have also found themselves to be the victim of employment discrimination. By seeking legal recourse and proving their claims, they could prevent the same thing from happening to another person as well as receive compensation for lost wages, among other damages.

Source: utsandiego.com, "Jury orders AutoZone to pay $185 million for gender discrimination", Kristina Davis, Nov. 18, 2014

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