In a decision unsurprising to anyone familiar with what California juries have been up to lately (see our reporting here), fast-food titan Jack in the Box was ordered to pay $15.4 million (including a staggering $10 million in punitive damages) last week in a lawsuit involving age and disability discrimination claims, as well as alleged retaliation and hostile work environment.

The former employee, Blanca Ramirez, alleged that she suffered two job-related injuries and that she was never offered accommodations. Ramirez, age 53 at the time she was discharged, alleged that her boss called her “grandma” in response to the way that she moved around the restaurant.

Ramirez also alleged that Jack in the Box fired her due to her two complaints about sexual harassment in the workplace. Ramirez alleged that she complained about a manager being involved in a “bizarre love-triangle” with two subordinates as well as a 22-year-old supervisor engaging in “serious misconduct” with at least two 16-year-old subordinates.

Jack in the Box denied Ramirez’s allegations and contended it fired Ramirez for manipulating the restaurant’s internal system for measuring “employee performance metrics.” Jack in the Box produced evidence in the form of video images of Ramirez’s alleged actions in that regard.  Ramirez’s attorney commented after the verdict:  “Jack in the Box in their SEC filing didn’t really mention two sexual harassment complaints my client filed as an employee supervisor.  They really screwed this thing up.”

The jury sided with Ramirez, finding that Ramirez’s age was a “substantial motivating reason” for the company’s decision to fire her. The jury also found that she was fired due to her disabilities as well as her complaints about sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. The final verdict came to $15.4 million, with nearly double the amount of punitive damages ($10 million) as compensatory damages for lost wages and emotional distress ($5.4 million).

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Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020; www.jurispub.com), co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.

Photo of Cole Lewis Cole Lewis

Cole Lewis is an associate in the Labor & Employment Department.

Cole graduated from UCLA School of Law, where he worked as a law clerk for Public Counsel of Los Angeles and advocated for benefit recipients in the Department of Public Social Services.

Cole Lewis is an associate in the Labor & Employment Department.

Cole graduated from UCLA School of Law, where he worked as a law clerk for Public Counsel of Los Angeles and advocated for benefit recipients in the Department of Public Social Services. He has also previously worked as a summer associate in Proskauer’s Labor & Employment Department.

Prior to law school, Cole received his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Indiana University, where he graduated cum laude.