Auto parts retailer AutoZone is in hot water with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The government entity recently filed its fourth lawsuit against the company for violations of federal law.
The lawsuit stems from the firing of an employee at AutoZone’s Ottawa, Illinois location. The complaint alleges that the employee had Type 2 diabetes, and would sometimes have an adverse insulin reaction that would cause him to have to leave his shift early. Under federal law, these absences were protected, but AutoZone’s policies failed to take this into account.
Instead, employees across the country were subject to a points system that kept track of their absences. Any employee who racked up 12 points was subject to termination, and no guidelines were in place for workers with disabilities. This means that workers who had a legitimate, legally protected reason for being absent were essentially being given demerit points that contributed to their eventual termination.
The EEOC has sued AutoZone three other times in recent years. In the other lawsuits, an employee had been passed over for promotion because of a visual impairment. The second lawsuit involved an employee whose disability made it impossible for him to mop floors without injuring himself. The company insisted that he perform the task anyway, and his subsequent injury formed the basis for the suit. The third case was filed on behalf of an employee whose disability meant that she was restricted to only lifting objects below a specified weight, a restriction which the company refused to acknowledge.
This latest EEOC litigation against AutoZone is also based on the claims of another employee who says he protested the company’s neglect of federal laws that protect workers with disabilities. The employee also filed charges with the EEOC against the company, and claims to have been fired by AutoZone as a result.
EEOC already attempted a pre-litigation settlement with AutoZone which did not succeed. Its next step was to file the lawsuit claiming violations of Title I and Title V of the ADA. The case will be decided in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by Judge Marovich.