Kevin Stuckey, an African-American, worked for AutoZone Inc. as a salesperson and then as a manager. During his employment, Stuckey was transferred to multiple stores in Chicago. Following his transfer in July 2012, in which his pay and job responsibilities were supposed to remain the same, Stuckey never returned to work. Instead he filed a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge of discrimination claiming that his transfer was initiated because of his race. The EEOC filed a lawsuit on Stuckey’s behalf, claiming that Stuckey’s transfer was part of a plan to “limit, segregate or classify” employees on the basis of race. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment to AutoZone, holding that even in a disparate impact case, the employees must show that they suffered an adverse action. The court held that there was no evidence that Stuckey’s transfer resulted in an objectively humiliating or degrading change in working conditions. EEOC v. AutoZone Inc., No. 14-cv-5579(Aug. 4, 2015).
IMPACT: Transferring employees to different locations is a legitimate business reason as long as it does not result in an objectively humiliating or degrading change in working conditions for the employee based on some protected classification such as race or sex.
Mark T. Kobata and Marty Denis are partners in the law firm Barlow, Kobata and Denis, which has offices in Beverly Hills, California, and Chicago.To comment, email email@example.com.
Title VII should not permit an employer to Plessy v. Ferguson its workforce for any reason.
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