A woman today was awarded $5.2 million by a Los Angeles jury that found her former employer discriminated against her because of a mental disability and wrongfully fired her.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury that had been deliberating since late Friday afternoon also concluded that Industry-based Valley Vista Services Inc. and its parent company, Zerep Management Corp., acted with malice toward 34- year-old April Rodriguez of Rancho Cucamonga.
The finding triggered a second phase beginning Thursday to determine if she should be awarded punitive damages, as well.
Rodriguez's attorneys maintained the waste disposal company, where Rodriguez worked as a customer service representative, failed to accommodate her because of her condition. Rodriguez testified she suffered often from panic attacks.
Lawyers for the company maintained their clients were never told the nature of Rodriguez's disability. They said she was fired in January 2010 for not calling her supervisors to explain an absence that lasted longer than three days. They said they asked the woman's then-husband, Henry Rodriguez, to relay a message to the plaintiff that her employers wanted to hear from her.
Henry Rodriguez also works for Valley Vista. He and the plaintiff are now divorced.
Defense attorneys also denied the plaintiff's assertion that Valley Vista failed to accommodate her in a way that would have allowed her to perform her duties.