Damages awarded to AutoZone employee in sexual harassment lawsuit

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KANSAS CITY -- Delise Diaz said over the course of a year while working at an AutoZone on Truman Road in Independence that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by two customers. She said she'd complain daily to managers, but was told they didn't want to lose the customers' business.

Diaz eventually contacted human resources and the state before filing a civil lawsuit in Jackson County. This week a jury returned a judgment in her favor for damages totaling more than $2.5 million that must be paid by AutoZone.

In the midst of the harassment, Diaz said her bosses told her to "stop being a crybaby" and deal with the sexual advances to keep the customers coming back. She said the harassment came in the forms of inquires about her “cup size” and inappropriate touching on multiple occasions.

She said the harassment by the customers and passiveness of her managers affected her so badly that she would cry every day before work. She said she even resorted to hurting herself to take her mind off the stress.

“I started trying to do stuff to ease my pain, I started cutting myself and she walked in and caught me and that was really hard to have her come in on me,” she said.

Diaz said she finally called AutoZone Headquarters’ human resource office. She said it took four months for someone to call her back. Diaz said she also called the state and was informed what she was experiencing was indeed harassment.

When Diaz learned the verdict was returned in her favor, she was very emotional.

“I really didn’t expect the verdict they gave, I think all I could do was cry,” she said.

She said the suit wasn't about the money, it was about making a point that employers need to take their employees seriously when they complain of harassment. FOX 4 has reached out to AutoZone’s lawyers and we’re still awaiting a comment.

Diaz says she still works for AutoZone, but now at a different location. Previously she said she couldn’t simply quit because of another co-worker and financial constraints.

“Quitting wasn’t an option for me. I couldn’t afford it for one thing and I felt like if I quit then I would be leaving the other girl there,” Diaz said.

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  • Melissa wood

    The district manager and human resources don’t support their employees when it comes to something like this. I quit because I was harassed by the district manager. It was verbal and made me emotionally upset. Human resources knew and to keep me quiet they issued me two small paychecks. They have me listed as not rehireable then told employees I was fired which is not the case. I hope she doesn’t loose hours because of this. May God protect her.

  • Heather

    It’s awful that this happened to this lady but it’s worse that the employer allowed it just so they didn’t lose “his” business. They should be ashamed of themselves. And as far as the money settlement goes……she should “own” Autozone. There is no acceptable reasoning for any individual or place of business to allow this to happen. None!!!!!! The employee is the one who suffers and lives with this horrible incident for the rest of her lives. They don’t just disappear, unfortunately she lives with those horrible events daily.

  • c. raines

    i used to work for autozone. I was harassed by store managers to. that company loves to hide things. I was hit open handed, pushed, you name it. its hard to fight a big company. I wont say his name but P.W. needs anger management bad..Delise you did wright and they paid, that’s enough for me I guess…

  • taxpayer

    yes action should have been taken but by her standards every waitress and bartender in america should get millions of dollars? no this is another case of someone getting buthurt and somehow gets millions for emotional damage and we wonder why everything is so expensive when were just handing out millions to everyone that has there feeling hurt obamacare caused my employer to drop there company insurance i was emotionally frustrated so can i sue obama? and i will feel emotionally attacked if anyone post anything negative about my post and try to sue them to for there intolerance of my opinion because that is how the legal system works this is just as bad as the dummy suing over spilling there coffee at the drive through its coffee if it wasnt hot youd complain about that too

    • Roy Swisher

      I’m a taxpayer also-but this is totally unacceptable behavior in a place of business-this is a auto parts store-not a strip joint-what if it was your wife or daughter, would it still be ok?-it sounds like she exhausted all the internal channels before she filed this suit-it went on for a very long time-day in and day out.

  • roberto

    2.5 Million!?

    She’s entitled to some damages for the mistreatment she experienced, but that award is ridiculous. Do you want to know why people are so litigious in this country? This is why. Filing a lawsuit is like winning the lottery. People pray that they slip and fall at work so they can sue their employer and be set for life.

  • Robin Usera

    I know Delise personally, and I can tell you she deserves every single penny of that $2.5 MIL! What the story doesn’t tell you is that Auto Zone had SEVERAL chances to settle out of court for A LOT less! They chose to go to trial, and they lost. It was difficult to watch her go through the emotional turmoil she was experiencing. She was not seeking out a lawsuit, but she was given no choice when Auto Zone refused to protect her as an employee. I am so proud of her for standing up for HER rights!

  • WT

    The following comments do not directly adress the sexual harrasment case but does show the pervasive attitude of Auto Zone management towards these kinds of matters and their M.O. to sweep everything like this under the rug. I have had personal experience with P.W. and he is an out of control lunatic. I can not believe that Auto Zone puts up with him and his out of control violence towards other employees. If any of you current Auto Zone employees ever has a run in with him and he pokes you in the chest or lays a hand on you in any way, go to your local police department and file an assault charge against him. Be sure to mention to the Police that he has an assault charge filed against him with the Grandview, MO. police department. If enough of you do this, it will show a pattern of violent behavior and Auto Zone will hopefully have no choice but to dump this lunatic.

    • Firedome

      I can’t believe how far the culture at Autozone has deteriorated since the time I worked there. I was hired there in 97 and was one of the original employees at the store on Truman Rd. I worked my way up to manager and was with them until 03 before leaving for a competitor. The district managers were all very professional that I dealt with. We were all trained on not tolerating sexual harassment or any kind of harassment for that matter. I saw my HR manager investigate a sexual harassment case in one of the stores the day after it was reported and terminate the person responsible one day later. It sounds like a completely different company than the one I worked for!

  • Almanzo Smith

    Yep, there needs to be a Class-Action lawsuit against Autozone and P.W. In case any of you don’t know who this District Manager is, he has red hair and looks like what Pugsley from the Addams Family would look like grown up. I’m pretty sure that being bi-polar is a requirement to be upper management in Autozone, because he sure has it.

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