Martinez began her employment with Rite Aid in 1983 at the age of 17. After starting as an ice cream scooper, Martinez was promoted to pharmacy clerk, and later became a licensed pharmacy technician. In her first 20 years of employment, Martinez was named “Employee of the Month” approximately 20 times and named “Employee of the Year” two times.
In 2004, Martinez suffered an incident at work which caused her to have an emotional reaction and be transported to the hospital. Prior to this event, she never suffered from anxiety, depression, or any other psychological conditions. After returning to work from the incident, she was transferred to four different stores in a 2.5 year period after never being subject to frequent transfers prior to her medical leave of absence.
In 2006, her direct supervisor falsely accused her of giving out a prescription for free, which she was later vindicated of the accusation. He also began making derogatory remarkets towards her, calling her “crazy”, “bipolar”, “psycho”, “mentally off”, and “too old”, all in the presence of co-workers and customers.
In 2007, Martinez learned that her supervisor had approached four of Martinez’s coworkers and asked them to make false statements about Martinez as part of a plan to get her fired. Later in 2007, the Rite Aid District Manager, who had previously encountered Martinez at a bank and touched her in a manner that made her feel uncomfortable, visited Martinez’s store and told her in a threatening voice that he “knew she was a problem and he was going to take care of her.”
In May 2007, Martinez filed an administrative charge with the EEOC, and following Rite Aid receiving notification of the charge, Martinez was given a final written warning falsely stating she continued to make prescription label errors, ignore her supervisor’s directions, and disrupted service levels. In July 2007, Martinez sent a letter to Rite Aid’s CEO detailing the workplace discrimination and harassment. Four days later, she was placed on suspension, and in August 2007 she was terminated after being employed for 23 years.
In 2008, Martinez filed suit against her employer, Rite Aid, and her former supervisor, alleging wrongful termination due to her disability and age as well as intentional inflection of emotional distress.
“Maria was an outstanding employee of Rite Aid for over 23 years, and a living example of the American dream,” said Shegerian. “Starting as an ice cream scooper at age 17 and working her way up to pharmacy clerk and later pharmacy technician, Martinez loved her job and loved providing excellent service to Rite Aid’s customers.”
“Rather than cherishing a dedicated, hardworking employee like Martinez, her supervisors chose to discriminate against her due to an isolated medical incident and her age,” added Shegerian. “This type of behavior is not only morally wrong and unethical, but it is illegal.”
Last week, a Los Angeles jury returned a verdict in the case, finding in favor of Martinez for damages for her wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, and awarded her a verdict of $6,012,258.