A Los Angeles Superior Court jury ordered Jack in the Box to pay nearly $15.4 million to a former restaurant supervisor, who alleged she was discriminated against and harassed because of her age and a physical disability.
The jury awarded Blanca Ramirez, who worked at the Jack in the Box on San Fernando Mission Boulevard in San Fernando, $5.39 million in compensatory damages on Monday and another $10 million in punitive damages on Tuesday.
The panel found she was the victim of wrongful discharge, retaliation, hostile work environment harassment and age and disability discrimination. The panel also concluded that the San Diego-based fast-food failed to accommodate her because of her disability and failed to prevent her from being harassed.
Attorneys for Jack in the Box maintained in their court papers that Ramirez was fired in September 2013 for manipulating the restaurant’s “speed-of-service” system, in which a goal is set to get food to customers within three to four minutes of placing their orders. Video images showed that Ramirez directed one customer in the drive-thru lane to back up and pull forward to start the service time all over again, according to the defense attorneys’ court papers.
Ramirez was 56 years old when she filed her suit in September 2015. She worked at Jack in the Box from 2001-13 and was a supervisor, or “team leader”, when she was fired, according to her lawsuit.
Ramirez, who worked a swing shift for about 10 years, said she was hurt in February 2013 when a box fell on her from a high shelf. Jack in the Box attorneys maintained in their court papers that the injury occurred when Ramirez was off duty bathing her dog.
Jack in the Box denied Ramirez worker’s compensation benefits and never offered her any accommodations, according to her lawsuit. Ramirez maintained she was subjected to retaliation when she complained about her treatment and that one example included being forced to work the graveyard shift one night a week.
Ramirez alleged her boss mocked her and called her “grandma” because the plaintiff moved in a guarded manner to avoid further injuries. The supervisor also began to unjustifiably reprimand Ramirez and micro-manage her work, the suit stated.
Ramirez was injured a second time when she fell in June 2013, but Jack in the Box again failed to accommodate her, the suit alleged. The supervisor increased her belittling of the plaintiff after the second injury, according to her court papers.
Jack in the Box lawyers maintained that Ramirez never requested any accommodations after her second injury and that the company provided her with help when she could not perform a task.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: