On March 30, 2006, the Phoenix District Office of the EEOC filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The plaintiff sued the automobile repairer AutoZone, Inc. under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The plaintiff, representing a female employee of AutoZone Inc., asked the court for monetary relief for the complainant and injunctive relief enjoining the defendant from future discrimination on the basis of sex. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that her manager at AutoZone Inc. had sexually harassed her, and that her employer had retaliated against her when she complained of the sexual harassment.
On June 5, 2008 Judge Stephen M McNamee granted the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment with regard to the defendant's affirmative defense. AutoZone Inc. had argued as an affirmative defense that the complainant's previous conviction of disorderly conduct would have constituted termination regardless of her sexual harassment complaints. The Court found this defense lacked sufficient evidence and was merely speculation. AutoZone Inc. further argued an affirmative defense that punitive damages in this case were a violation of the state and federal constitution. Judge McNamee found this affirmative defense erroneous.
On September 11, 2008 Judge Stephen M McNamee denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment. Judge McNamee ruled that material questions remained with regard to the sexual harassment, the plaintiff's actions following the sexual harassment, and whether the complainant was retaliated against after she filed complaints of sexual harassment. Given these remaining questions, summary judgement was inappropriate.
The parties then disputed jury instruction. On December 11, 2008, the EEOC provided proposed jury instructions. The defendant claimed that the instructions were incorrect because the plaintiff had not pled that tangible employment action occurred in retaliation to her complaint. On June 1, 2009, Judge McNamee found the instructions proper. The model instructions direct the jury to find whether or not the complainant proved she had suffered a tangible employment action. If found, the defendant was vicariously liable for the manager's conduct, and the defendant's affirmative defense would not be considered.
On June 10, 2009, a jury found for the plaintiff. The jury found that the plaintiff did experience a hostile work environment, but also found that AutoZone Inc. did not retaliate against the complainant. The jury found AutoZone Inc. liable to the complainant for $15,000 in compensatory damages and $50,000 in punitive damages.
On June 22, 2009 the defendant moved for a judgment as a matter of law, or alliteratively, a new trial. On July 24, 2009 Judge McNamee found that there was legally sufficient evidence for the jury finding, and there was not mistake in the case. He denied both motions.
On June 25, 2009, the EEOC moved to amend the judgment to include equitable relief. On November 9, 2009, Judge McNamee partially granted the EEOC's motion. He granted requests to require training programs, and he granted the request to require updated posters with specific information about Title VII and a complaint process. He denied the motion for a permanent injunction enjoining the defendant from discriminating against employees based on sex because the complainant in this case was the only to come forward with a complaint, and because AutoZone had sufficiently shown that sexual harassment was unlikely to reoccur. He also denied relief requiring the defendant to investigate all employee complaints of sexual harassment from the last three years, relief requiring the defendant to change its complaint process, and relief requiring monitoring and reporting.
The Defendant then moved for partial reconsideration with regard to new postings on Title VII. One January 6, 2010, Judge McNamee ordered that the original posters may be used as a foundation, but he found three problems that must be corrected. The posters must be updated, they must include EEOC contact information for the Phoenix Field Office, and they must be moved further from the manager's offices.
On July 23, 2012, Judge McNamee found that the defendant had paid the ordered monetary damages, so he ordered that the bond securing judgment could be released. David Friedman - 05/20/2008
Gabriela Hybel - 11/14/2016