Former Jack in the Box Employee Awarded $15 Million in Wrongful Termination Case

What are the grounds for a viable wrongful termination action?

A Los Angeles Superior Court recently awarded a former Jack in the Box employee $15 million in damages following her wrongful termination. The substantial award will be contested by the San Diego based restaurant chain. Employees nationwide will want to review the case and follow the appeal to learn more about the grounds for wrongful termination. Every year, millions of employees will lose their jobs for various reasons, many not explained.  While most employment is at will, there are certain protected reasons that make it unlawful for an employer to fire an employee.

Ramirez v. Jack in the Box Inc.

Plaintiff Ramirez worked for Jack in the Box between the years 2001 and 2013 as a supervisor.  She was terminated in 2013 and filed suit against her former employer in 2013. Ramirez was injured on the job prior to her termination in 2013, which she asserts made it difficult to perform certain job-related tasks. She claimed Jack in the Box refused her workers’ compensation claim and decline to make accommodations for her injuries. She was injured a second time and similarly did not receive accommodations.

Additionally, Ramirez believes she faced retaliation for notifying the company of inappropriate workplace behavior. She urges that her supervisor sent her a sexually explicit photograph, but she was reprimanded when she tried to address it.  Then, Ramirez issued complaints about some male managers acting inappropriately with younger female employees, which were ignored and said to anger her supervisor.  

After hearing all of the evidence, a jury awarded Ramirez $5.4 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. Jack in the Box has vowed to appeal the hefty verdict.

Wrongful Termination Cases

Most employees today are considered “at-will,” which means that an employer can fire an employee without need for good reason. However, this does not mean that all firings are lawful.  Employers nationwide cannot fire an employee due to discrimination or retaliation. Federal laws protect employees from being fired on the grounds of race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, and pregnancy.  Further, employees who take action to report wrongdoing cannot be fired for their lawful actions. If you believe you have been fired for a protected reason, contact a New York City wrongful termination lawyer as soon as possible.