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Chipotle Pays Big Bucks for Discriminating Manager

Despite it being 2017, companies still seem to struggle with working mothers.  In the employment law context, this often comes up in the form of pregnancy discrimination.   Companies of all sizes and industries struggle with this issue.  Oftentimes, employers will make comments they believe to be nice or compassionate such as asking questions about when the baby is due without realizing they have moved into inappropriate territory.    

In Hernandez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99946, the plaintiff was a front line worker at a Chipotle restaurant.  She alleged after she became pregnant her male supervisor began to harass her and treat her differently.  Within two months, her employment was terminated although she had received positive performance reviews.  She brought suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and ultimately prevailed at trial.  The jury awarded her $50,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.  The punitive damages were reduced to $300,000 in light of a statutory cap. 

The high verdict, however, was not all the plaintiff was entitled to obtain under Title VII.  She also was awarded in excess of $825,000 in attorneys’ fees and close to $13,000 in costs.  All in Chipotle will pay close to $1.2 million. 

This case serves as a reminder that litigation is expensive and prophylactic training on appropriate behavior towards pregnant workers is key.  Employers should also review their anti-harassment policies to further minimize the likelihood that they fall prey to the same predicament Chipotle encountered.

Brody and Associates regularly provides counsel on civil rights issues and employment laws in general.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.