EEOC Sues AutoZone for Discriminating Due To “Perceived Customer Preference” for Latinos over Blacks at Chicago Store

On July 22, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois against AutoZone, Inc. for discrimination. AutoZone is a large nationwide company headquartered in Memphis, TN. The Commission alleges that the company forced district manager Kevin Stuckey to transfer from one Chicago-area store to another as part of its “effort to eliminate or limit the number of black employees at (its) Kedzie store…because it believed that customers of the Kedzie Store preferred to be served by non-black, Hispanic employees.” If true, they allege, this would be a clear violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a), which prohibits any effort “to limit, segregate, or classify store employees on the basis of race.”
When AutoZone informed Mr. Stuckey of their decision to relocate him, he was offended and refused, and they then terminated his employment. Through these actions, the EEOC alleges, the company acted so as to “deprive Stuckey and other black individuals of employment opportunities because of their race.”

The company’s belief that Hispanic customers at its Kedzie location would prefer to interact with Hispanic over Black employees was confirmed by the EEOC’s investigation, supervised by District Director John Rowe.

John Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago, said “Fifty years after the adoption of the Civil Rights Act, a major employer transferring an employee simply because of his race and then firing him for not going along is unacceptable. When the employer is a major national brand and a leader in its industry, it’s even worse. Everyone must understand that supposed customer preference is no excuse for discrimination – it’s still illegal, and the EEOC will step in to challenge it.”

The EEOC is requesting an order requiring the defendant to revise its policies to eliminate discrimination, to reinstate Stuckey to his position, to give him back-pay, and compensate him for economic losses, emotional pain, suffering, humiliation, inconvenience, and mental anguage as determined by a jury at trial.

If you are an employee and you believe you have been subject to gender discrimination, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.