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Walmart failed to accommodate employee with Down syndrome, jury finds and awards more than $125M in damages

Walmart failed to accommodate employee with Down syndrome, jury finds and awards more than $125M in damages


Walmart failed to accommodate employee with Down syndrome, jury finds and awards more than $125M in damages

MANITOWOC, Wis. — A Green Bay jury returned a verdict in favor of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a disability discrimination case against Walmart.The jury last Thursday found the company failed to accommodate an employee at a Manitowoc Walmart.The jury awarded the employee $150,000 in compensatory damages and $125 million in punitive damages after the four-day trial and three hours of deliberation, according to a Friday EEOC release regarding the court’s decision.The case was filed in 2017 and claimed Walmart violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on an employee’s disability.The jury found Walmart had failed to accommodate Marlo Spaeth, an employee with Down syndrome who had worked for the company for about 16 years.Racial justice in the workplace: In-depth look at diversity’s struggle to crack corporate boardroomsAmerica’s food retail executives at Coke, Costco, Pepsi and Starbucks still mostly white and maleA Walmart spokesman said Friday that under federal law, the damages will be reduced to the maximum allowed, which is $300,000. Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the retail giant was reviewing its legal options. He said Walmart does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.The jury found that Walmart fired Spaeth in July 2015 because of her disability, and evidence presented at the trial indicated Spaeth had consistently received positive performance evaluations.The EEOC presented evidence that a change made to Spaeth’s longstanding work schedule had caused her difficulty. Spaeth asked the start and end times to be adjusted by 60 to 90 minutes and to be returned to her prior schedule.Spaeth typically worked a shift from noon to 4 p.m. most days from Monday to Friday. .The new schedule took effect in November 2014 and Spaeth was fired for attendance issues on July 10, 2015.Spaeth’s condition requires that she maintain a rigid schedule of daily activities, the lawsuit said. Spaeth requested that she be allowed to resume her prior work schedule of noon to 4 p.m. because if she did not eat dinner at the same time every night, she would get sick, the lawsuit said. Instead of returning her to the old schedule, Walmart fired her, Spaeth alleged.Hargrove said the company routinely accommodates thousands of employees every year. “We’re sensitive to this situation and believe we could have resolved this issue with Ms. Spaeth, however the EEOC’s demands were unreasonable,” Hargrove said.Contributing: The Associated Press

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