Jury awards fired Walmart worker $125 million. She’ll get less than 1%, Walmart says
A former Walmart employee with down syndrome was awarded $125 million in a disability discrimination lawsuit against the superstore chain that fired her — but she’ll only see a tiny sliver of that money, a company spokesperson says.
On Friday, an eight-member jury sided with former employee Marlo Spaeth, who has down syndrome, on claims that the retail giant discriminated against her, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced in a release.
Spaeth was fired in July 2015 after 16 years working at a Wisconsin Walmart, after changes made to Spaeth’s “longstanding work schedule caused her significant difficulty,” the release said.
Spaeth, whose life had hinged on her routine, was struggling to get to work on time consistently, her lawyers argued, according to the Herald Times Reporter. She was eventually fired as a result, though she repeatedly requested her schedule be changed back to what it had previously been — a difference of 60 to 90 minutes.
Despite having “consistently received positive performance evaluations from her managers,” Spaeth was turned down later on when she sought to be rehired, the EEOC said.
“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, said in a statement.
However, the nine-figure sum awarded to Spaeth exceeds the federal limit allowed in such discrimination suits, Walmart told the Associated Press. Instead of $125 million, Walmart must only pay $300,000, a spokesman said.
That comes out to about 0.24 percent of $125 million.
This seems to match information on the EEOC website, which lists the “limits on compensatory and punitive damages.” For a company employing more than 500 people, the cap is set at $300,000.
Still, the EEOC said the outcome is a victory for Americans with disabilities, and “sends a strong message to employers that disability discrimination is unacceptable in our nation’s workplaces.”
Walmart told the Herald Times that the chain does not allow discrimination, and if the EEOC had not become involved in the case, no legal action would have been necessary.
“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,” a spokesman told the outlet. “We’re sensitive to this situation and believe we could have resolved this issue with Ms. Spaeth, however the EEOC’s demands were unreasonable.”