SAN DIEGO — A Del Mar woman passed over for promotion and then fired from La Jolla-based Science Applications International Corp. won $3.1 million Tuesday in court, the largest award ever issued by a San Diego County jury in a sex discrimination suit.
Bernice Stanfill, 48, who in 16 years with the company worked her way up from secretary to corporate vice president, was passed over for promotion in favor of one man, then another a few years later. After training both men in company policy, she was fired in 1987 in what the company claimed was a budget-related cutback.
The jury, however, found that her firing was based on her sex, was a breach of contract and violated the laws against sex discrimination in the workplace. The record award, Stanfill said late Tuesday, served as vindication.
"This is a real important verdict because there are a lot of women like me, who do a real good job, and expect they'll be given the same kind of treatment that anybody who does a good job will get," she said.
Company spokesman Chuck Nichols called the award "wrong." In a statement released Tuesday, Nichols said, "No one ever likes to have layoffs, but Ms. Stanfill was treated fairly and the company intends to appeal the decision."
After a monthlong trial before Superior Court Judge Thomas LaVoy, a jury awarded Stanfill $967,871 in lost wages and $200,000 for pain and suffering. It deliberated 45 minutes Tuesday morning before awarding $2 million in punitive damages.
The company, an employee-owned business, makes products for national security, energy production, health and environmental production and high-technology fields. Its products include highly sensitive bomb detectors used at airports.