A Napa jury deliberating a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by a temporary worker against popular Napa-based bean company Rancho Gordo sided with the plaintiff on a number of counts and awarded her $252,000 in damages on Thursday, March 23, as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Martha Martinez, who was a temporary worker at Rancho Gordo from late 2019 into 2020, accused the company of discriminating against her based on her sex, national origin, and pregnancy, leading to retaliation and wrongful termination, the Chronicle reported in early March. Jurors of the case deliberated for four days, working through a deadlock, but only sided with Martinez on some of the lawsuit’s accusations.
The jury concluded that Martinez’s pregnancy at the time of her employment with Rancho Gordo was a factor in her termination in 2020 — as well as that the firing caused her harm, and that the company retaliated against her by not hiring her for future work over complaints about being fired due to her pregnancy. The jury didn’t seem to find the company at fault on other allegations, however. Martinez alleged that she faced discrimination in relation to her nation of origin, El Salvador, by other employees. Jurors did not side with Martinez on that accusation.
Martinez was awarded a substantial amount of money in damages by the jury, who compensated her $15,566.40 for lost past earnings; $86,400 for future medical expenses; $75,000 for past emotional distress; and $75,000 for future emotional distress. In response to the verdict landing in Martinez’s favor, her legal team at Liberation Law Group told the Chronicle that Martinez’s “sense of justice was correct” in filing a lawsuit against Rancho Gordo over her treatment at the company.
Rancho Gordo refuted all the claims in court. Attorneys for the company and Rancho Gordo owner Steve Sando stated the company was unaware of Martinez’s pregnancy at the time of her firing.
In a statement to Rancho Gordo employees via Slack on Thursday and released to Eater SF by company officials, Sando informed staff of the jury’s decision and thanked everyone for their support, while further disputing any discriminatory wrongdoing as alleged in the case.
“Unfortunately, we lost our case against the temp worker who claims we let her go because she was pregnant,” the message reads in part. “It’s a crushing loss as we know it was due to seasonal needs, not discrimination, but the emotional jury thought otherwise. We did nothing wrong and our staff acted with professionalism and grace. I would invite you to read the court transcripts and you will agree. Or not, but this is a rough one.
“The story isn’t over,” the message continues, adding that the company’s legal team has advised Sando not to speak publicly about the case until “it’s really over.”