Shoppers walk outside a Walmart store in San Leandro, California, United States on Thursday, May 13, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A jury ruled that Walmart must pay more than $ 125 million in damages in a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Opportunities Commission, the federal agency said on Friday.
The lawsuit alleged that the retailer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marlo Spaeth, a 16-year-old Walmart employee with Down syndrome.
In the lawsuit, federal agency said the retailer changed Spaeth’s long-running schedule and refused to accommodate her requests for other hours, despite challenges due to her disability. Ultimately, it was said the company fired her despite receiving positive performance reviews from managers.
“Employers, no matter how large, are required by law to assess the individual circumstances of employees with disabilities when reviewing reasonable accommodation requests,” said Julianne Bowman, Chicago district director, in a press release. “Mrs. Spaeth’s request was simple and her rejection changed her life fundamentally.”
Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the company is reviewing its next steps. He said the retailer wanted to clear the matter with Spaeth but said EEOC’s demands were “unreasonable”.
He said the ruling would be lowered to $ 300,000, the maximum allowed under federal law.
“We do not tolerate any form of discrimination and we routinely take on thousands of employees every year,” he said. “We often adapt our employees’ schedules to the expectations of our customers. While Ms. Spaeth’s schedule was adjusted, it stayed within the times she specified.”
The EEOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As of Friday noon, Walmart’s shares were relatively unchanged. They were down less than one percent to $ 141.53. The retailer’s shares are down nearly 2% so far this year.