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Laurie Chess and Tracy Kern Help AutoZone Drive Away With Another Trial Victory
September 18, 2007

The plaintiff, a 10-year employee, was fired for having taken spark plugs out of the store without first having the customer pay for the plugs, and for receiving a $20 tip for doing so. This conduct violated the company's written policies prohibiting employees from accepting tips and from removing merchandise from the property without first being paid for. The employee claimed the company's reasons for his termination were not true, and that he was fired due to his age and in retaliation for having taken workers’ compensation leave.  During this jury trial, the plaintiff testified that the money he took was not a "tip," but rather "compensation" for work he performed for the customer while he was off the clock. The plaintiff called the customer to testify that his vehicle had broken down in Jasper, Indiana, on New Year’s Eve, and that he would have been stranded but for the plaintiff’s help. The customer also testified that he was happy to provide the plaintiff with remuneration for his hard work. Plaintiff also called five former employees, including a manager, who testified they had removed parts from the store without them having been paid for, and had not been fired for this. Under cross-examination, however, all admitted that they never took money for doing so. In all, the plaintiff and his case were sympathetic, but rigorous preparation and cross examination allowed Chess and Kern to rest without putting a single witness on the stand. After deliberating for less than two hours, the jury returned a verdict in AutoZone's favor on both of the plaintiff's claims.