Shipping clerk hired through a temporary agency is fired shortly after she tells co-workers she is pregnant.
- Case Name: Martha Martinez v. Rancho Gordo
- Court and Case Number: Napa Superior Court / 21CV001035
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, March 23, 2023
- Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, July 21, 2021
- Type of Case: Employment, Wrongful Termination
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Cynthia P. Smith
Plaintiffs: Martha Martinez, 29
Defendants: Rancho Gordo
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $251,966.40
Wage loss: $15,566.40
Future medical costs: $86,400
Past emotional distress: $75,000
Future emotional distress: $75,000
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 10 days
- Jury Deliberation Time: 4 days
- Jury Polls: 8-3
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: JNOV expected.
Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Liberation Law Group, P.C. by Arlo Uriarte and Elizabeth Lyons, San Francisco.
Attorney for the Defendant:
Anderies & Gomes LLP by Shane Anderies, San Francisco.
Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Philip Keddy, Ph.D., clinical psychology.
Denise Caramagno, forensic psychology.
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
Rancho Gordo, Inc. (“Rancho Gordo”) is a purveyor and national distributor of heirloom beans located in Napa. Its warehouse production and shipping operation rely significantly on temporary workers – at times more than half of its total employees are classified as temporary. To fill this business need, Rancho Gordo contracted with Palkar, Inc. dba Alkar Human Resources (“Alkar”) beginning in 2016 to provide temporary staffing services. Since 2020 and after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company more than doubled in size.
Plaintiff was hired by Rancho Gordo on November 15, 2019 as a shipping clerk from Alkar. Plaintiff was the first and only temporary employee assigned to shipping during her employment. Shipping supervisor Adriana Barajas directly supervised plaintiff along with two other shipping clerks. Adriana Barajas reported to Warehouse Supervisor Mayra Barajas, who happens to be her sister, about the work pace and personnel needs of the shipping line. Mayra Barajas reported to Director of Operations Justin Lucero. Mayra and Justin Lucero jointly managed temporary staffing levels based on business orders.
Under Mayra and Adriana Barajas's watch and with their participation, Rancho employees, whom are largely of Mexican descent, targeted other temporary workers with derogatory treatment based on their national origin. For example, Adriana directly made comments to plaintiff about offensive stereotypes regarding Salvadorean women; she called Salvadorean women “horny” and “whores who steal other women’s husbands.”
Plaintiff learned that she was pregnant on February 12, 2020. She shared the news with Adriana Barajas and other shipping clerks that same day. In the early morning of February 14, 2020, Martinez reported to Mayra Barajas that she could not report to work because her father-in-law was in the hospital. In response, Mayra Barajas told her not to come back to work and terminated her assignment effective that same day: February 14, 2020, just two days after she disclosed her pregnancy to Rancho Gordo. On February 17, the workday following her termination, plaintiff complained to Rancho Gordo that she believed the decision was because of her pregnancy. She also met with Alkar on February 18, 2020 to make a similar report of pregnancy discrimination. She asked them to fix the issue. Alkar communicated plaintiff’s complaint to Rancho Gordo and inquired about their reason for her termination.
That Rancho Gordo failed to adequately investigate plaintiff’s complaint, nor take adequate steps to correct or prevent discrimination from occurring. Instead, Rancho Gordo retaliated against plaintiff in failing to rehire her despite her qualifications, express interest, business need for her replacement, and hiring numerous replacement workers from Alkar, including shipping clerks in the days and weeks that followed her dismissal.
Plaintiff's claims included pregnancy discrimination, national origin discrimination and retaliation for reporting discrimination in the termination of her assignment.
That termination was for legitimate business reasons; that the business experienced a slowdown after the Christmas sales cycle.
Injuries and Other Damages
Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $86,400 future medical costs
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $15,566.40 wage loss
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: $75,000 plus costs
- Defendant §998 Offer: $30,001 (joint offer)