A California jury deliberated for about four hours on May 10 before ordering Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. to pay one of its former general managers almost $8 million. The fast-food chain claimed that it fired the woman for stealing $626 from a restaurant safe, but the jury were more convinced by her attorneys’ version of events. They told the jury that the woman stole nothing and was fired after years of faithful service in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
The restaurant chain was unable to back up its allegations because the surveillance video that it said depicted the events unfolding was erased and text messages and notes that could support its arguments were either deleted or lost. The jury was also unconvinced by the company’s witnesses who all had jobs to protect. The company maintained that it fired the woman only reluctantly and had supported her through four workers’ compensation claims.
The jury ordered Chipotle to pay the woman $6 million to compensate her for her emotional distress and $1.97 million to cover her lost past and future income. The parties are scheduled to return to Fresno County Superior Court to determine how much the restaurant chain should pay in punitive damages. Punitive damages are often awarded in cases of malicious wrongful termination to make an example of employers and deter other companies from behaving in the same way.
Workers who have been fired unfairly are sometimes reluctant to step forward because they feel that they lack the evidence needed to prove their claims in court. Attorneys with experience in this area could explain that civil cases are decided based on the preponderance of the evidence and not proof beyond reasonable doubt. This means that juries must only be convinced that the claims of the plaintiff are more likely true than not.
Source: The Fresno Bee, Fresno jury says Chipotle owes former manager $7.97 million for wrongful termination”, Pablo Lopez, May 10, 2018