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Chipotle worker fired for making work comp claim awarded $8 million

Workers' compensation is supposed to help workers injured in workplace accidents make ends meet while they recover and cannot work. The purpose of workers' compensation is to provide injured workers with a fixed monetary recovery without having to litigate their claim with an employer.

If you know anything about litigation, results and resolutions do not occur quickly and it is not uncommon for some lawsuits to take years to resolve. Meanwhile, an injured worker has no income and no reasonable way to fight for a monetary award through the courts. As such, workers' compensation is an important process for injured workers.

State law requires employers to pay into the state's workers' compensation fund. But this does not mean that employers are happy about employers bringing work comp claims. In fact, a recent verdict from a California state court exemplifies the lengths employers may go to avoid paying an employee's claim.

Essentially, a manager for a Chipotle restaurant was accused of stealing $626 from a company safe and was subsequently fired. When the manager disputed the company's claim and asked to see video footage of the purported theft, Chipotle responded that the footage had been lost. It also claimed that text messages and notes relating to the theft had also been destroyed.

Naturally, the terminated manager thought the lost evidence was suspicious and sued Chipotle for wrongful termination. After a trial, a California jury awarded her $7.7 million in damages. The jury reportedly believed the manager's claim that Chipotle plotted to defame and fire her after she filed a workers' compensation claim after she injured her hand.

Chipotle claimed (albeit unsuccessfully) that it has a company policy that prohibits it from showing video footage to employees, and that the video in this circumstance was accidentally deleted. It is unknown whether the jury was instructed (or allowed) to make negative inferences due to evidence being lost or destroyed under dubious circumstances, but the story is an example of the lengths employers may go to deny or destroy an otherwise legitimate workers compensation claim.

If you have questions about pursuing or maintaining a work comp claim, an experienced attorney can advise you.

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