Woman With Down Syndrome Gets $125 MILLION In Lawsuit Against Walmart

Ex-Walmart Employee With Down Syndrome Gets $125 MILLION In Discrimination Case After Being Fired For Missing Work Because Her Schedule Changed Despite Strict Routine

  • Marlo Spaeth, a longtime Wisconsin Walmart employee with Down syndrome, was fired in 2015 after the store changed its schedule
  • As part of her condition, Spaeth must maintain a strict daily schedule, which includes eating at the same time every night
  • Rather than accommodate her, Walmart fired her, according to a lawsuit filed in 2017 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Spaeth.
  • On Thursday, a jury awarded Spaeth $125 million in punitive damages plus $150,000 in damages a fee
  • The $125 million will likely be reduced to $300,000, which is the maximum limit for damages in ADA cases, a Walmart spokesperson said
  • The EEOC said the federal cap does not apply to arrears, prepayments, litigation costs or interest

A former Walmart employee with Down syndrome was awarded $125 million in a discrimination lawsuit after the retail giant changed her work schedule and eventually fired her for chronic absenteeism.

Marlo Spaeth worked at the Manitowoc, Wisconsin store for 16 years before being fired in 2015.

In the lawsuit, she said she must maintain a tight daily schedule as part of her condition, which includes eating dinner at the same time every night.

The store changed its hours in 2014 and made her work longer days, causing Spaeth’s health problems, according to the lawsuit filed on her behalf in 2017 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

When Spaeth asked to adjust her schedule by 60 to 90 minutes to allow her to go back to her shift from noon to 4 p.m., Walmart fired her and later refused to hire her again, according to the lawsuit.

An eight-member jury in Green Bay, Wisconsin sided with Spaeth and awarded her $125 million in punitive damages and another $150,000 in compensatory damages on Thursday.

While that number will likely be reduced to $300,000, which is the maximum limit on damages in ADA cases, a Walmart spokesperson said, the EEOC said it doesn’t apply to arrears, prepayments, litigation costs or interest.

Walmart lost a disability discrimination case after firing an employee with Down syndrome from one of their stores in Wisconsin

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit in 2017 on behalf of Marlo Spaeth and announced the verdict on Friday.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit in 2017 on behalf of Marlo Spaeth and announced the verdict on Friday.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said in an emailed statement to the media that the company does not tolerate discrimination and that it routinely hosts thousands of employees each year.

“While Ms Spaeth’s schedule was modified, it remained within the times she stated she was available,” Hargrove said in the statement. “We are sensitive to this situation and believe we could have resolved this issue with Ms. Spaeth, but the EEOC’s demands were unreasonable.”

Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, said in a statement that the jury acknowledged “and was apparently quite offended that Ms. Spaeth lost her job because of Walmart’s undue — and illegitimate — rigidity.”

Megan Bigler Tafolla, a financial social work teacher, applauded the verdict in a four-tweet thread.

“The idea that companies like Walmart would rather spend thousands (dollars) on lawsuits rather than have their employees do good to begin with makes me sick. Putting all that stress on a person and her loved ones because someone didn’t want to make schedule adjustments?’

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