Rosario Juarez was a manager at one of Autozone’s San Diego, California locations. Although she consistently met the goals set for her by the company, her boss took issue with Juarez after learning she had become pregnant. Autozone made Juarez’s job more difficult by doubling her work and setting her up to fail. A representative of the company told Juarez that he, “felt sorry” for her after she became pregnant and forced her to redo work that did not need to be redone. Apparently, Autozone hoped that the excessive work would force Juarez to quit her job, but she didn’t. Instead the company demoted, and eventually fired Juarez due to her “condition.”
The case went before jury in Federal Court, and Autozone lost—big time. Juarez was awarded $900,000 in compensatory damages and a staggering $185,000,000 in punitive damages. Although the punitive damages award is not likely to pass judicial scrutiny, the result has sent a clear message to all California employers: don’t discriminate or retaliate against your pregnant workers.
It will be interesting to see just how much Juarez recovers after the dust settles, but there is a strong possibility her recovery will break the record for highest punitive damages award in California’s judicial history!