Meeks v. AutoZone, Inc., 2018 WL 3062555 (Cal. Ct. App. 2018)

Natasha Meeks worked as a store manager for AutoZone and claimed that she had been sexually harassed by Juan Fajardo, another store manager. Among other things, Meeks testified that Fajardo would comment on her body and clothes; ask her to go out with him; suggest that they have sex; send her text messages with sexual content, including images and video; forcibly attempt to kiss her; and suggest he could facilitate her advancement and promotion through his position as one of the “favorites” of the district manager. Fajardo also threatened to get Meeks fired if she reported his conduct. Meeks reported Fajardo’s conduct to the district manager who failed to take action, and it was not until 10 months later that the human resources department investigated the matter, which resulted in Fajardo’s termination.

Meeks sued AutoZone and Fajardo for sexual harassment-hostile work environment, failure to prevent harassment, retaliation and sexual battery. The trial court granted summary adjudication against Meeks on the retaliation claim; Meeks dismissed the sexual battery claim; and the jury returned defense verdicts on the remaining claims. The Court of Appeal affirmed dismissal of the retaliation claim because there was no evidence that AutoZone retaliated against her (in fact she remained employed by AutoZone at the time of trial), but the Court reversed the judgment on the remaining claims based on the trial court’s exclusion of certain evidence. Among other things, the trial court erroneously excluded: Detailed testimony from Meeks regarding sexually explicit text messages and a pornographic video that Fajardo sent to her; testimony regarding Meeks’s knowledge of another employee who had reported harassment; and “me-too” evidence of Fajardo’s alleged sexual harassment of other employees. (Note that in 2014, a federal court jury in San Diego awarded another AutoZone manager, Rosario Juarez, $185 million in a case involving pregnancy-related harassment, discrimination and retaliation – which may very well be the largest single-plaintiff verdict since the fall of the Roman Empire).

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Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020;, co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.