Readings — From the October 2015 issue

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From testimony given last November by Randy Cosby, a district manager of AutoZone, in a gender-discrimination case brought against the company by Rosario Juarez, a former employee at a California AutoZone store. Juarez was fired in 2008 for an offense that was later found to be the fault of another employee. She sued the company for impeding her advancement, demoting her when she became pregnant, and inventing a pretense to fire her. AutoZone was ordered to pay her $185 million in damages. The company dropped its appeal of the ruling in July. Dan Merchant was a regional manager for AutoZone. Lawrance Bohm represented Juarez at trial.

lawrance bohm: Mr. Cosby, do you know a man named Dan Merchant?

randy cosby: Yes. I worked with Dan at AutoZone.

bohm: Do you know why people called him Mr. AutoZone?

cosby: That was his nickname because he bled AutoZone orange. He was AutoZone. There was a lot of people like that. And you know what, they’re dedicated to their work. I was dedicated. They called me Mr. WITTDTJR.

judge william v. gallo: Mr. What?

cosby: We had a program, Whatever It Takes to Do the Job Right, and I was always on the top. I was good at teaching people how to sell parts.

bohm: And how did Mr. Merchant help you develop in your career?

cosby: So there was one time I went into the office and I said, “Dan, what do I need to do to become a regional manager? Because I’ve been a district manager for ten years, I’ve had nothing but great reviews, stayed out of trouble.” And he says, “Well, what you need to do, first of all, is what I told you in Redding.”

bohm: What did Mr. Merchant tell you to do with the Redding store?

cosby: When he came into my market in Redding — I had three stores and it was kind of hectic. So when Dan walks in, he just kind of chuckled, and we started walking around the store, and he says, “Well, I know why you’re not doing no business. You’ve got four women in your store. You need to get rid of them.” And I says, “Dan, I’ve got a manager on vacation, another manager on vacation, one called in sick. This is just a onetime deal. All these ladies aren’t staffed in the store.” The only one staffed in that store was a red shirt, which means part-time. The other ones came from other stores. He says, “You mean you got women in all stores? You need to get rid of your women.” And then we went outside. And he said again, “Get rid of them.” And I knew what that meant, you know. Luckily my part-timer, well, she was going to quit anyway. So that was a blessing. The other two ladies, I wasn’t going to get rid of them. They were good parts people. They knew parts. I would have put them up against any guy. You know, they deserved the job. We didn’t hire them for no reason.

bohm: Did you ever keep track of the women who were being hired and promoted?

cosby: Yes. When we acquired Chief Auto Parts, they were under a lawsuit. Something about hiring women. So we had to keep a log, and we actually had to actively seek out women management.

bohm: How long did you do that for?

cosby: It was 2001, 2002, I think, when we ended that.

bohm: How did you know it was time to stop keeping track of the data concerning women?

cosby: We had a meeting in Sacramento, and we was told the lawsuit was no longer in effect.

bohm: What did Mr. Merchant say in response to the news?

cosby: Well, he said, “We’re no longer hiring women.” And basically, go fix our staffing, you guys know what women you have in your store. Start taking care of it.

bohm: Did Mr. Merchant say anything about the worthiness of these women to AutoZone?

cosby: With the district sales managers he says, you know, these women we hired are worthless.

bohm: Are you aware of the kind of employee that AutoZone preferred to hire for their commercial-driver positions?

cosby: Yes. Women. Young, good-looking girls.

bohm: And did you have an understanding why AutoZone preferred young, good-looking girls?

cosby: Because shops like it. That draws business.

bohm: When you say “shops like it,” what are you talking about?

cosby: Well, America is changing. You know, values and everything. But back in the day, a few years ago —

bohm: Let’s focus on 2003 and 2006.

cosby: Right. Shops, they got the calendars hanging and everything. Guys like girls, and when a pretty little girl shows up in a pickup truck, you know, it’s like, hey. But if an old dude shows up in a pickup, oh man. It was the way to drive business. I mean, that’s just the way it is.

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