As a worker in the U.S., you’re entitled to basic protections such as to receive fair pay, to be treated without discrimination and to have basic health and safety protections in the workplace. If your employer does not uphold such protections, you have the right to make a legal claim against them.
However, some companies use fear and intimidation tactics to keep their employees in place. A worker in such an environment may worry about facing retaliation if they speak out against the company’s wrongdoing.
It’s important to understand that there are also laws to protect workers from such vengeful actions. As one recent California case demonstrates, employer retaliation can sometimes lead to extremely lucrative outcomes for the employee.
Jeanette Ortiz worked as the manager of a Chipotle restaurant in Fresno, California. She sustained a wrist injury on the job and filed a workers’ compensation claim. Her employer—upset by the additional costs the company would incur by the claim—fired Ortiz instead. They claimed to have video surveillance footage of her stealing $600 from the cash register.
Ortiz fought the accusations and took Chipotle to court. Her lawyer proved that Chipotle in fact had no such footage, and that her termination was a strategy to avoid paying for her workers’ compensation. Ortiz won her wrongful termination suit. Instead of paying Ortiz a few thousand dollars in workers’ compensation, Chipotle was ordered to pay her $7.97 million in damages.
If you have faced wrongful termination or other forms of employer retaliation, it’s worth consulting with an experienced employment attorney to understand your recourse.