Walmart Ordered to Pay $125 Million After Firing Worker with Down Syndrome

Marlo Spaeth
Amy Jo Stevenson

Walmart lost a federal lawsuit in Wisconsin once a jury sided with an associate who has Down syndrome and claimed the company fired her due to her disability.

Marlo Spaeth worked for the company for approximately 16 years prior to being fired from its Manitowoc location in 2015 because of excessive absenteeism, CBS News reported July 19.

“According to the lawsuit, brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Spaeth’s work schedule changed after Walmart implemented a new computerized system in 2014, which created significant difficulty for her,” the outlet continued:

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. Walmart also refused to rehire her when Spaeth requested it, the lawsuit said.

The alleged conduct “violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on an employee’s disability,” the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said in an announcement July 16.

Spaeth was awarded $150,000 in compensatory damages and $125,000,000 in punitive damages following deliberation, the EEOC noted.

“The jury here recognized, and apparently was quite offended, that Ms. Spaeth lost her job because of needless — and unlawful — inflexibility on the part of Walmart,” Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, commented.

Spokesman Randy Hargrove told reporters the company was reviewing its legal options, adding Walmart does not tolerate discrimination and accommodates thousands of workers each year.

“We often adjust associate schedules to meet our customers’ expectations and while Ms. Spaeth’s schedule was adjusted, it remained within the times she indicated she was available,” Hargrove claimed. “We’re sensitive to this situation and believe we could have resolved this issue with Ms. Spaeth, however the EEOC’s demands were unreasonable.”

The case is EEOC v. Walmart, No. 17-cv-70 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.


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