United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Plaintiff-Appellant,
AutoZone, Inc., and AutoZoners, LLC, Defendants-Appellees.
April 7, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14 C 5579 - Amy
J. St. Eve, Judge.
Easterbrook, Kanne, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
2008 to 2012, Kevin Stuckey worked as a sales manager for the
auto-parts retailer AutoZone, Inc. During his four years with
the company, Stuckey was transferred between Chicago-area
stores several times. None of these transfers entailed any
loss in pay, benefits, or job responsibilities. In July 2012
he was transferred again, this time from a store on Kedzie
Avenue that serves a largely Hispanic clientele. This
transfer, too, involved no reduction in his pay or
never reported for work at his new assignment. Instead he
filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission accusing AutoZone of racial discrimination in
violation of Title VII. Stuckey is black; he claimed that
AutoZone transferred him out of the Kedzie location in an
effort to make it a "predominantly Hispanic" store.
EEOC filed suit on Stuckey's behalf alleging that the
transfer violated 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a)(2), an infrequently
litigated provision in Title VII that makes it unlawful for
an employer "to limit, segregate, or classify his
employees ... in any way which would deprive or tend to
deprive any individual of employment opportunities or
otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because
of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or
national origin." The district judge granted summary
judgment for AutoZone, holding that the transfer was not an
adverse employment action.
EEOC contests this conclusion, arguing that the statute
doesn't require the claimant to prove that the challenged
action adversely affected his employment opportunities or
status. That reading cannot be squared with the plain
statutory text. We affirm.
began working for AutoZone as a salesperson in January 2008
and was originally assigned to a store located at the
intersection of Ogden Avenue and Pulaski Road in Chicago. He
worked there for about eight months, received a raise, and
then was transferred to the AutoZone store located at 4416 S.
Kedzie Avenue at the same pay, benefits, and job
responsibilities. He worked at the Kedzie store for about 18
months, received another raise, and was promoted to sales
manager with a more substantial increase in pay and
responsibilities. In May or June of 2010, he was transferred
to another Chicago store and a few weeks later was
transferred again. In May 2011 AutoZone returned Stuckey to
the Kedzie store. None of these transfers entailed any
reduction in his pay, benefits, or job responsibilities.
Kedzie store is located in an area largely populated by
Hispanics, and the clientele at the store reflects the
surrounding neighborhood. Robert Harris was AutoZone's
district manager responsible for overseeing the Kedzie store
(and about a dozen others). Harris is black; he is the
decision-maker behind Stuckey's many transfers, including
the one at the center of this case.
Stuckey returned to the Kedzie store in 2011, his immediate
supervisor was Vernon Harrington, the store manager.
Harrington is also black. It's undisputed that Stuckey
and Harrington did not get along. But the parties disagree
about whether Stuckey asked to be transferred out of the
Kedzie store because of this discord. Harris and Harrington
testified in their depositions that he did. Stuckey admitted
only that he and Harrington did not get along well; he did
not recall asking for a transfer.
specifically, Harrington testified that Stuckey was
frustrated and wanted to transfer out of the Kedzie store
because he couldn't communicate well with the customers.
In fact, Harrington said that Stuckey was upset that he was
not being transferred from the Kedzie store quickly enough.
To expedite the matter, Harrington contacted Tina Cleveland,
a human resources manager at AutoZone, to tell her that
Stuckey wanted a transfer.
meantime, Harrington contacted Harris to let him know that
he'd had to discipline Stuckey a few times and that
Stuckey didn't respond well. Apparently this was meant to
move the transfer decision along. Harrington was under the
impression that one of the reasons Stuckey could not be
transferred right away was that attendance problems made him