While “How many lawsuits does it take” does sounds like the beginning of an HR joke, AutoZone isn’t laughing. The company has faced multiple employment lawsuits over the past several years and lost all of them, resulting in some very costly verdicts. Most recently, on March 28th 2011, the Ninth Circuit upheld a verdict for the EEOC against AutoZone with the damages at $65,000. The suit alleged that an AutoZone store in Arizona had created a sexually hostile workplace. In September 2010 the EEOC filed a lawsuit in Massachuset U.S. District Court Massachusetts, alleging that AutoZone created a hostile work based on religious discrimination. The Seventh Circuit upheld a verdict against AutoZone for wrongful termination in violation of the ADA in Wisconsin in December 2010. The company is also facing a class action lawsuit for wage and hour violations in Oregon, California and Arizona.
One thing the numerous lawsuit highlight is how hard it is to ensure compliance across a wide spread organization even with the best of intentions. According to the AutoZone website, AutoZone is the “ nation’s leading retailer and a leading distributor of automotive replacement parts and accessories with more than 4,600 stores in the US, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.” No doubt AutoZone has strict written policies against harrassment, hostile work enviroments and discrimination. Certainly they provide training to managers and employees on what is appropriate behavior. The founder of AutoZone has a long standing personal committment to equal rights and is patron of the of the National Civil Rights Museum, where the current CEO is serves on the board as Treasurer. Yet a bad or misinformed manager at just one of those 4,600 locations can result in a $65,00 verdict.
Join the conversation: Is it easier to ensure compliance at a large corporate with a high level of HR staff and resources or at a smaller company?