An aerospace company was ordered to pay $7 million in punitive damages Thursday to a former employee who said she lost her job in 2012 because of her age and gender, bringing her total award to $8.5 million.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury had awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages on Tuesday to 55-year-old Blanca Torres of El Monte. Torres maintained that before her position was eliminated, she was asked to train a 24-year-old man who succeeded her and who remains in her old position of quality assurance supervisor at B/E Aerospace.
The jury found the company acted with malice, which triggered the second phase of trial to determine if Torres should be awarded punitive damages.
Torres cried as she heard Thursday’s verdict. Her attorney, Maryann Gallagher, said the showing of emotion was unusual for her client, who she said normally is stoic and humble.
Gallagher said Torres was 52 years old when she was terminated in June 2012 from B/E’s Westminster location. She never had a negative job review during her 23 years working at the company and considered B/E as her second home, the lawyer said.
“Defendants decided they wanted to get rid of the older, long-term employees and replace them with younger and cheaper employees,” Torres’ suit stated.
Torres’ court papers allege that her good standing with the company changed when a younger male supervisor, Juan Carlos Garfias, came aboard in 2011 and began mistreating her due to her age and because she was female.
Gallagher said another boss, Randy Delaney, ignored Torres’ complaints. Both men voluntarily left the company, Gallagher said.
Defense attorneys stated in their court papers that Torres tried to subvert the authority of Garfias and another supervisor and resisted their efforts to employ the company’s new procedures.
The company’s lawyers further stated in their court papers that Torres was overpaid with an annual salary of about $79,215 for her position because she performed “unskilled administrative duties.”
The Westminster location was acquired from Delco in 2001 and is a center for B/E’s assemblies and machine services for commercial and military aircraft, the defense lawyers state in their court papers.
Torres filed her lawsuit in June 2013. She now works for another company in the same field, Gallagher said.
— Wire reports
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