Saturday, November 22, 2014

Jury Awards $186 Million in Pregnancy Bias Case

Pregnancy discrimination has been a visible area in the news recently.  The EEOC has focused on this area, and the Supreme Court will look at a pregnancy discrimination claim later this term.  To add to this attention, a California jury just awarded a mammoth verdict in a pregnancy discrimination and harassment case against AutoZone.  In the case, the employee was demoted and fired after the employer learned of her pregnancy. A San Diego jury awarded just under $1 million in compensatory damages, and $185 million in punitive damages. From a news report at

"At trial, a former district manager testified that an AutoZone vice president berated him for having so many women in management positions, saying: 'What are we running here, a boutique? Get rid of those women.' The jury ruled that the harassment against [the worker] was "severe and pervasive," and found unanimously that she was discriminated against and later fired because of her pregnancy, according to the verdict form." 

I have serious doubts that the verdict will be upheld in its entirety, and it's extremely likely  that  the punitive damages award will be greatly reduced. Nonetheless, this case sends a significant message that this type of discrimination will not be tolerated.  It will be interesting to follow this case and any appeals.

Hat tip:  Suja Thomas

-- Joe Seiner

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