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Segregating Employees Not Enough to Create Title VII Liability

Sales Manager Kevin Stuckey worked for AutoZone. Throughout his employment, he was transferred from store to store without any changes in pay, benefits, or job responsibilities. One such store was on Kedzie Avenue, which was in a neighborhood that was largely Hispanic. Mr. Stuckey is black. At the Kedzie store, Mr. Stuckey did not get along with the general manager. Mr. Stuckey was transferred out because he did not communicate well with the customers. Mr. Stuckey testified that he was transferred because AutoZone wanted to keep the store staff predominantly Hispanic. Mr. Stuckey filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, alleging that he had been transferred because of his race in violation of Title VII.

Title VII makes it unlawful “to limit, segregate, or classify…employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as employee…”

For the purposes of the litigation, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals accepted as fact that AutoZone intended to create a store of predominantly Hispanic employees. However, the EEOC (who brought the suit) could not establish that the purported segregation adversely impacted Mr. Stuckey’s employment. Mr. Stuckey was transferred to another store with no changes to his pay, benefits or job responsibilities. The EEOC argued that any segregation or classification of employees was an automatic violation of Title VII and that adverse impact was inherent in any segregation of employees. The court disagreed. As there was no evidence that the transfer “even tended to deprive Stuckey of any job opportunity,” the alleged segregation did not violate Title VII.