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 Reuters.com:
"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