MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) – Walmart Inc. lost a federal lawsuit in Wisconsin when a jury sided with a sales rep with Down syndrome, claiming appointment changes exacerbated the attendance problems that led to her being fired.
The Green Bay Federal Court jury awarded Marlo Spaeth more than $ 125 million in punitive damages on Thursday, but a Walmart spokesman said Friday that federal law will reduce this to the maximum of $ 300,000 allowed. The jury also awarded Spaeth $ 150,000 in damages, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said on Friday when the verdict was announced. The EEOC sued Walmart.
“The weighty jury verdict in this case sends a strong signal to employers that disability discrimination is unacceptable in our country’s workplaces,” EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said in a statement.
Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the retail giant is reviewing its legal options. He said Walmart does not tolerate any form of discrimination and routinely houses thousands of employees each year.
“We often adapt our employees’ schedules to the expectations of our customers. While Ms. Spaeth’s schedule was adjusted, it stayed within the times she provided, ”said Hargrove. “We are sensitive to this situation and believe that we could have solved this problem with Ms. Spaeth, but the EEOC’s demands were unreasonable.”
Spaeth worked for Walmart for about 16 years before being fired from the Manitowoc business in 2015 due to excessive absenteeism. Changes to her work schedule after the introduction of a new computerized system in 2014 caused her significant difficulties, the lawsuit said.
Spaeth’s condition requires her to keep a set schedule of her daily activities, the lawsuit states. Spaeth requested that she resume her previous work schedule from noon to 4 p.m. because if she doesn’t have dinner at the same time every night, she’ll get sick, the lawsuit says. Instead of getting her back on the old schedule, Walmart fired her, claimed Spaeth. Walmart also refused to reinstate her when Spaeth so requested, the lawsuit says.
The jury found that Walmart ignored Spaeth’s disability and dismissed her because of it, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EEOC said.
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