A Wisconsin jury has ordered Walmart to pay more than $125 million in damages over disability discrimination claims brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a former employee with Down syndrome. (Read a copy of the Verdict Form here.)
Marlo Spaeth started working as a sales associate at a Walmart in Manitowoc, Wis., in 1999, folding towels, cleaning aisles, processing returns and greeting customers, her lawyers said. Over the next 15 years, she received several pay raises and positive performance reviews. In 2014, the employee requested that Walmart adjust her start and end times following a change to her work schedule because her condition required adherence to a rigid schedule of daily life activities.
Ms. Spaeth told Walmart that she was unable to maintain her new schedule, but she alleged Walmart did not offer to modify the schedule. She was disciplined before being fired in 2015. She sued, alleging that Walmart unlawfully disciplined her, terminated her and failed to rehire her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Read the original lawsuit Complaint here.) The jury held that Walmart failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation that would not have posed an undue hardship, and that her termination violated the ADA.
On Thursday, a jury Green Bay found that Walmart had violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, which bans discrimination based on an employee’s disability, and awarded Ms. Spaeth $125 million in punitive damages and $150,000 in compensatory damages. The bulk of the verdict will be reduced to $300,000 because, sadly, that is the maximum amount allowed under federal law for compensatory and punitive damages. That law has not been updated in many years to keep up with inflation.