Former Chipotle manager Jeanette Ortiz was awarded nearly $8 million in damages by a California jury for wrongful termination on May 10, and the jury was back in court Monday to determine if any further punitive damages are necessary.
Ortiz was a general manager for Chipotle Mexican Grill on Shaw Avenue across from the Fresno State campus, according to The Fresno Bee. She was fired in January 2015 for stealing $626 in cash. Her bosses originally claimed to have video evidence of the theft, but when pushed to produce the tape they declined. (RELATED: Chipotle Praises Tax Reform)
The company said the video evidence was destroyed, according to Fresno attorneys Warren Paboojian and Jason Bell, who represent Ortiz in the case.
Fresno County Superior Court jurors ruled Ortiz was not a thief but rather a victim of a scheme to fire and discredit her after she filed a worker’s compensation claim for a job-related injury, The Fresno 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.
Both sides will return to court Monday to asses any punitive damages. Punitive damages are reserved to punish the defendant to discourage them from repeating their actions in the future.
Ortiz is entitled to punitive damages after the jury found Chipotle had malicious intent when they fired her, according to The Fresno Bee. Chipotle offered Ortiz 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 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 Fresno Bee.
During his closing arguments, Ortiz’s lawyer Paboojian said she 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 Fresno Bee reported.
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