(Update: Chipotle went to court Monday and settled the case. Here's what happened.)

What do today's kids want to be when they grow up?

Entrepreneurs? Engineers? eSports champions?

Here's a new career path to think about: Get fired by a big company, then sue it.

That's the story of Jeannette Ortiz, who used to work for a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Fresno, California, and who had maybe the best Friday of her life last week, when a jury said Chipotle has to pay her almost $8 million for illegally firing her back in 2015.

Not only that, but Ortiz gets to go back to court on Monday to see whether Chipotle will also be ordered to pay punitive damages, which could potentially be a lot more. (She's a 42-year-old mother of nine children, so I suspect she'll find a use for the money.)

Chipotle claimed it fired Ortiz, who had been with the company for 14 years, for allegedly stealing $636 from a company safe--but it seems that the evidence didn't hold up in court.

For example, Chipotle said it had a video that showed that Ortiz "took out the money, fanned the bills, and looked over her shoulder to make sure no one was watching," according to reporter Pablo Lopez, who covered this all for the Fresno Bee newspaper.

Ortiz denied it, and when asked to see the evidence, and later took the company to court, Chipotle said it had lost the video, apparently by taping over it. It also "deleted text messages and lost notes about the reasons for firing Ortiz," according to Lopez. 

The jury thus apparently accepted Ortiz's claim that she'd been framed, allegedly in response to her filing a worker's compensation claim, and then refusing to lie about her injuries (as her supervisor allegedly pushed her to do). 

"The theft claim was ridiculous," one of Ortiz's lawyers said, according to Lopez's report, "because company officials had repeatedly given Ortiz outstanding performance reviews ... She was making $70,000 a year as a general manager and company officials had talked about promoting her to a position that would have paid her at least $100,000."

Now, I was a lawyer before I became a writer. I usually hesitate to say whether I think a jury made the right decision; heck, I'd never heard of this case until a few days ago. 

But one big lesson to take away is that it's really important for businesses to have a smart document retention policy in place. Lose or destroy evidence, and courts will almost always tell the jury to draw the least favorable inference for you as a result.

In other words, they can assume that if you no longer have evidence you once had, it's probably because that evidence would have been bad for your case. It can really cost you--even if the loss or destruction of evidence was totally innocent.

In fact, let's take a quick second to put the $8 million award in context:

  • It's about as much as Ortiz would have made working at Chipotle for 114 years, based on that $70,000 annual salary. 
  • It's roughly the same as 0.2 percent of Chipotle's 2016 annual revenue. Or, about as much as the chain brings in every 12 hours or so.
  • If you had to divide it among all 2,250 Chipotle locations in the U.S., each would have to contribute about $3,555.
  • Finally, it's a few million less than Chipotle founder and then-CEO Steve Ells took home himself, last year. 

Chipotle had reportedly offered Ortiz $1,000 to settle the case; her lawyers had asked the jury for $10 million, which would cover all the wages she lost, plus millions for emotional distress.

I asked Chipotle for comment.

"We don't comment on pending litigation," said Quinn Kelsey, a Chipotle spokesperson.