Discrimination based on a worker’s race and age are among the most common types of unlawful treatment reported in the workplace. A recent lawsuit highlights yet another form of employment discrimination — pregnancy discrimination.

Rancho Gordo Temp Worker Wins $250,000 in Pregnancy Discrimination and Wrongful Termination Case

Many different types of employment discrimination are illegal under California labor laws. Discrimination based on a worker’s race and age are among the most common types of unlawful treatment reported in the workplace. A recent lawsuit highlights yet another form of employment discrimination — pregnancy discrimination.

A former temporary worker at Rancho Gordo won around $252,000 in damages after suing the food company for pregnancy discrimination, wrongful termination, and retaliation. The lawsuit was filed in Napa County Superior Court in 2021.

Martha Martinez worked as a shipping clerk at Rancho Gordo from late 2019 to early 2020. The heirloom bean company is known for its sustainable farming practices and is based in Napa, California.

In her lawsuit, Martinez accused the company of firing her because she was pregnant. She also alleged discrimination based on race, sex, and national origin.

Although the jury sided with Martinez on her pregnancy discrimination, wrongful termination, and retaliation allegations, they did not find any wrongdoing on the company’s part for the other three discrimination claims. Martinez had accused coworkers of discriminating against her based on her national origin from El Salvador. They allegedly made inappropriate and offensive remarks, along with engaging in harassment. However, she had not reported the alleged misconduct to Rancho Gordo management at the time.

If you are experiencing unlawful treatment in the workplace, it is important to report discrimination or harassment. You may be required to report it to human resources or a manager based on your employer’s internal procedures. Alerting management to the misconduct shows that you tried to take steps to stop the unwanted behavior. If you decide to take legal action against your employer in the future, the complaints can serve as vital evidence of the discrimination or harassment you suffered.

According to the lawsuit, Martinez found out about her pregnancy in February 2020 and informed people at the company. A few days later, she told a manager she had a family emergency that prevented her from coming to work. According to the complaint, the manager responded by saying that Rancho Gordo no longer needed her due to a slowdown in business after the holiday season. 

After some more days passed, Martinez asked for a meeting to discuss the reason for her firing, telling the manager she believed she was wrongfully terminated based on her pregnancy. The manager then claimed no one at the company knew she was pregnant and that she had been fired for her frequent absences. Rancho Gordo insisted that Martinez had not notified managers about the pregnancy.

The lawsuit alleged that the employer’s explanation for Martinez’s firing was simply a pretext to cover up the real, discriminatory reason for her termination. The jury sided with Martinez, finding that her pregnancy was a factor in her termination from Rancho Gordo in 2020 and that the firing caused her harm. Additionally, the jury concluded that the employer retaliated against Martinez by refusing to hire her for future employment due to her complaints about being wrongfully fired based on her pregnancy.

The jury went through around four days of deliberations. Martinez was awarded about $15,566 for lost past wages, $86,400 for future medical expenses, and $150,000 for past and future emotional distress. 

Employers have a legal responsibility to prevent discrimination in the workplace. To fulfill this duty, they should take proactive measures to establish a discrimination-free environment. This includes implementing clear policies, providing anti-discrimination training, promoting diversity and inclusion, and promptly addressing any complaints or incidents of discrimination. Failing to take an employee’s claims seriously can lead to the employer facing legal consequences.

At McCormack Law Firm, we understand how difficult it can be to speak up about unlawful treatment in the workplace. Fortunately, you do not have to do it alone.

An experienced San Francisco employment lawyer can ensure you understand your rights and options for holding your employer accountable. You may be entitled to pursue compensation for damages or reinstatement after wrongful termination. In some cases, you may be able to get the company to change its policies and practices.

Contact McCormack Law Firm for a free case evaluation. We can help you determine whether you have grounds for a discrimination or wrongful termination claim against your employer.

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