A Los Angeles Superior Court jury ordered Chevron USA Inc. to pay more than $1 million to a former contract worker at the company’s El Segundo refinery, who said she was wrongfully passed over at age 54 for an open permanent employee position in favor of two younger candidates in their 30s who were less qualified.
The panel deliberated for about two hours Monday before awarding Maria Hoffer $702,360 in compensatory damages. The same day the panel added an additional $300,000 in punitive damages.
Hoffer worked as an independent contractor at the El Segundo refinery from November 2011 until February 2015, when she left for other employment with more security, according to her court papers. During her time there, she says she pioneered a position that became known as a work control specialist and trained others for the job.
Hoffer found out in April 2015 that Chevron intended to hire two permanent work control specialists and her former boss encouraged her to apply, her suit says. Hoffer put in her application and was interviewed the next month.
“The evidence put forward by Ms. Hoffer shows that she was substantially the most experienced, qualified and … stellar applicant.” but the positions were instead given to two women ages 34 and 35, according to her lawsuit.
In their court papers, Chevron lawyers maintained that Hoffer’s age discrimination claims were “made from whole cloth.” They stated that Chevron was laying off other employees in other positions at the refinery and had reserved one of the work control specialist positions for an internal candidate and intended to hire the other from the outside.
Hoffer was not eligible for one of the positions because she was not an internal candidate and she was not the highest ranked candidate for the external hiring, the Chevron lawyers stated in their court papers.