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AutoZone Sued by EEOC for Racial Classifying

The EEOC has sued AutoZone, a Fortune 500 company which employs some 65,000 people. At the center of the litigation is the firing of sales manager Kevin Stuckey.

AutoZone%20Logo-001.jpgStuckey, who is African-American, was employed at a Chicago AutoZone store in 2012. The EEOC alleges that AutoZone decided to institute a Hispanics only employment rule for that location because the neighborhood’s predominate population was Hispanic and those customers might be more comfortable dealing with sales personnel of their own race. Accordingly, Stuckey was ordered to begin reporting to a different location in another part of Chicago. Stuckey refused the transfer, and AutoZone fired him.

In court, AutoZone argued that the EEOC did not have the necessary evidence to back up their allegations. Moreover, the retail giant says the EEOC has not proven that there was an adverse employment action.

The EEOC is relying upon the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII of which makes it illegal to use race to segregate or classify employees. Attorneys for the EEOC argue that AutoZone’s assertion that the decision to transfer Stuckey was based solely on sales figures and job performance is unsubstantiated. Although AutoZone claims that sales and performance were the only factors in the decision to transfer Stuckey, they have refused to produce the documents that would support this defense.

Statements allegedly made by Stuckey himself may undermine the EEOC’s position. AutoZone produced a statement in which Stuckey claimed that he couldn’t remember whether or not he had asked for a transfer to another location. Stuckey’s testimony, and any supporting documentation produced by AutoZone, may seal the fate of this EEOC lawsuit.

This matter is still in its early stages. It’s likely that both sides will demand to review pertinent documents and seek to depose several witnesses. The judge appointed to the case has already ordered that AutoZone must provide a list of all employees working at the two stores in question. AutoZone is also required to detail any transfer details for all of these employees. However, the judge denied the EEOC request to review compensation records for managers at both locations.