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Jury awards almost $186 million for pregnancy discrimination claim

Q&A with Nathan Whatley

published in The Oklahoman | August 18, 2015

McAfee & Taft labor and employment lawyer Nathan Whatley was interviewed by The Oklahoman about a blockbuster verdict in which a federal jury in Southern California awarded a former AutoZone manager nearly $186 million in damages based on her claim of pregnancy discrimination and retaliation. After informing her supervisor that she was pregnant, the plaintiff alleged she was harassed into stepping down from her manager position and was ultimately demoted. After filing suit against her employer, she was terminated, allegedly over missing money from the store. According to Whatley, the jury awarded the former manager the record-breaking amount after finding she was subjected to severe and pervasive discrimination and that high-ranking company officers were involved in the discriminatory actions.

While admitting that jury awards of this size are rare, he said that employer mistakes in dealing with pregnant workers often can cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“The verdict in the AutoZone case shows that jurors care about pregnancy discrimination cases and will strongly respond if they believe an employer has mistreated a pregnant employee,” said Whatley. “Notably, the jury in the AutoZone case was comprised mostly of men.”