A jury awarded $ 5.2 million to a veteran Walmart employee with a developmental disorder after finding the company hadn’t accepted him.
The award comes in a US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case accusing the company of violating the Disability Act in the treatment of Paul Reina, who worked as a cart pusher at a Beloit, Wisconsin site .
Reina, who has a developmental disorder, is deaf and visually impaired, had been in the business for 16 years when a new manager took over. In his first month on the job, the new manager suspended Reina, asking him to re-submit medical records in order to maintain his reasonable arrangements, which included assisting a job coach, the EEOC said.
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Reina’s condition had not changed, but when the new paperwork was submitted asking for the job coach to continue to assist him, the EEOC stated that the business had ceased communications with Reina and “effectively terminated” him.
The jury ruled in favor of the EEOC after a three-day trial, awarding Reina $ 200,000 in damages and $ 5 million in punitive damages.
“Employers are required by federal law to work with workers who need shelter for the disabled,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the Chicago District of EEOC. “In this case, the jury sent Walmart and other employers a strong message that they will be punished for failing to comply with their legal obligations.”
Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman, said the store manager was concerned about Reina’s safety.
“After going through the official lodging review process, it was found that Mr. Reina was unable to do essential parts of his job, with or without reasonable accommodation,” said Hargrove. “As a result, he no longer works in the business.”
Noting that federal law limits damage to $ 300,000 in such cases, Hargrove said Walmart doesn’t believe the evidence supports the verdict and the company is weighing its options.
“We tried for several years to accommodate Mr. Reina’s strict restrictions, but in the end it was no longer feasible. We think we could have solved this problem with Mr Reina, but the EEOC’s demands were unreasonable, ”said Hargrove.