Walmart Loses an EEOC Disability Lawsuit and Must Pay Damages

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Big box retailer Walmart has lost an EEOC disability lawsuit that alleged discrimination against a long time employee of the company with Down Syndrome.

The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Marlo Spaeth, a 16-year Walmart employee who has Down syndrome, had been fired after the retailer changed her schedule and she struggled to manage the new hours.

A jury awarded Spaeth more than $125 million in damages. The federal agency said on Friday that Walmart must pay the damages.

According to Walmart however, the maximum amount allowed under federal law is $300,000.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the retailer wanted to resolve the matter with Spaeth, but argued that the EEOC’s demands “were unreasonable.”

That verdict was reduced Thursday to a statutory maximum of $300,000 by the judge in the case.

Walmart may also face having to pay additional money for Spaeth’s back pay, front pay, as well as for interest and litigation costs, an EEOC spokeswoman told CNBC. The judge will determine those amounts at a later date.

The EEOC alleged that Walmart in its firing of Spaeth violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability.

The EEOC also said she struggled to keep up with the new hours, leading to disciplinary action for absenteeism.

She had received positive performance reviews from managers.

“Employers, no matter how large, have an obligation under the law to evaluate the individual circumstances of employees with disabilities when considering requests for reasonable accommodations,” Chicago District Director Julianne Bowman said in a press release.

“Ms. Spaeth’s request was a simple one and denying it profoundly altered her life.”

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the company is reviewing its next steps.

“We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, and we routinely accommodate thousands of associates every year,” Hargrove said. “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.”

Disclaimer: We have no position in any of the companies mentioned and have not been compensated for this article.

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