Chipotle is perhaps most well-known in Massachusetts for its affordable burritos and rice bowls, but the company recently received some less than stellar coverage. A former employee was awarded $550,000 after she was the victim of wrongful termination at one of its many locations. Her discrimination lawsuit did more than yield just compensation, as it also helped influence new laws that protect pregnant women in the workplace.
In May 2011, the former employee was hired at Chipotle and was on the receiving end of positive work performance reviews on multiple occasions. She informed one of her supervisors that she was pregnant later that same year, in Oct. 2011, and she claims that it was at that point that everything began to change. Soon, her bathroom breaks were monitored ,and she was denied breaks during her shift and access to water. Upon showing up to work one day, she was fired while other employees were present. The reason given for her dismissal was her attendance at one of her prenatal appointments.
After years of ongoing litigation, the trial lasted four days and ended with the jury on the former employee’s side. While Chipotle strongly disagrees with the outcome, it has been ordered to pay $500,000 for the woman’s punitive damages. Some believe that she will also be compensated for her attorney’s fees and lost wages. Perhaps more profound than the compensation is the new law in her area (Washington, D.C.) that requires employers to provide necessary accommodations to pregnant employees, including more frequent bathroom breaks.
Pregnant women and those who have recently given birth must often contend with an enormous amount of discrimination in the workplace. For some in Massachusetts, becoming pregnant can even lead to wrongful termination from their position of employment. The recent victory against Chipotle is an excellent example of how those who have been discriminated against in the workplace can hold their former employer responsible for their actions.
Source: dcist.com, “Jury Awards Fired Chipotle Worker $550,000 In Pregnancy Discrimination Suit“, Rachel Sadon, Aug. 5, 2016