In late March, a California jury reached a verdict in Martinez v. Rite Aid Corporation, wherein Maria Martinez, a longtime Rite Aid employee, was awarded a verdict of more than $6 million after her wrongful termination. Martinez was represented by Carney Shegerian, trial lawyer and founder of the Los Angeles-based employment discrimination firm Shegerian & Associates.
Martinez’s 20-plus-year career at the pharmacy chain was highlighted with accolades and praise. She had been promoted several times, eventually became a licensed pharmacy technician and was named “Employee of the Month” and “Employee of the Year” on several occasions.
A work incident in 2004 caused her to suffer an emotional reaction and be transported to the hospital. Prior to this event, she never suffered from anxiety, depression, or any other psychological conditions. After returning to work from the incident, she was transferred to four different stores in a two-and-a-half-year period. She had not been subject to frequent transfers prior to her medical leave of absence.
Several incidents with co-workers and supervisors took place in 2006 and 2007 that tainted her career. In 2007, Martinez learned that her supervisor had approached four of her co-workers and asked them to make false statements about Martinez as part of a plan to get her fired. Later in 2007, the Rite Aid district manager, who had previously encountered Martinez and touched her in a manner that made her feel uncomfortable, visited her store and said in a threatening voice that he “knew she was a problem and he was going to take care of her.”
In May 2007, Martinez filed an administrative charge with the EEOC, and following Rite Aid receiving notification of the charge, Martinez was given a final written warning falsely stating she continued to make prescription label errors, ignore her supervisor’s directions, and disrupted service levels. In July 2007, Martinez sent a letter to Rite Aid’s CEO detailing the workplace discrimination and harassment. Four days later, she was placed on suspension, and in August 2007 she was terminated after 23 years of employment.
In 2008, Martinez filed suit against her employer, Rite Aid, and her former supervisor, alleging wrongful termination due to her disability and age as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“Rather than cherishing a dedicated, hardworking employee like Martinez, her supervisors chose to discriminate against her due to an isolated medical incident and her age,” said Shegerian. “This type of behavior is not only morally wrong and unethical, but it is illegal.”
Last week, a Los Angeles jury returned a verdict in the case, finding in favor of Martinez for damages for her wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, and awarded her a verdict of $6,012,258.
Another Shegerian & Associates verdict was featured as one of February’s Insights.