Former Chipotle manager Jeanette Ortiz was awarded nearly $8 million in damages by a California jury for wrongful termination.
Ortiz was a general manager for Chipotle Mexican Grill across from the campus of Fresno State, according to The Fresno Bee.
She was fired in January 2015 for allegedly stealing $626 in cash.
Her bosses originally claimed to have video evidence of the theft, but when pushed to produce the tape they declined.
The company said the video evidence was destroyed, according to Fresno attorneys Warren Paboojian and Jason Bell, who represented Ortiz in the case.
Fresno County Superior Court jurors ruled Ortiz was not a thief but rather the victim of a scheme to fire and discredit her after she filed a worker’s compensation claim for a job-related injury, The Bee reported.
Her superior, Janelle Schrader, allegedly asked Ortiz to diminish her injuries on the compensation claim so she could return to work.
Ortiz refused and believes this refusal was the reason she was fired.
Chipotle offered her only $1,000 to settle out of court, but she declined and went on to win the case. She and her attorneys initially asked the jury for $10 million.
Ortiz was also entitled to punitive damages — reserved to punish the defendant to discourage them from repeating their actions — after the jury Thursday found Chipotle had malicious intent when it fired her, according to The Fresno Bee. By law, the amount of punitive damages could be up to nine times the $8 million award.
The jury was set to consider the punitive damages this week, but it didn’t get a chance.
Chipotle decided to cut its losses, and it reached a settlement with Ortiz on Monday, according to The Bee.
The amount of the settlement was undisclosed.
“They vindicated my client,” Ortiz’s lawyer Paboojian told The Bee.
Ortiz was making $70,000 a year as a general manager and was in line for a promotion that would’ve bumped her salary to at least $100,000, according to The Bee.
During his closing arguments, Paboojian said Ortiz had experienced intense anxiety and humiliation, which was interfering with her sleep cycle and everyday life.
Jurors gave Ortiz $6 million for her emotional distress and an additional $1.97 million for loss of wages, The Bee reported.
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