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Walmart loses EEOC disability discrimination lawsuit

Shoppers shop in front of a Walmart store on Thursday, May 13, 2021 in San Leandro, California, United States.

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 US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency said Friday.

The lawsuit alleges that the retailer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability. The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on behalf of Marlo Spaeth, a 16-year-old Walmart employee with Down syndrome. Spaeth worked at the Walmart Supercenter in Manitowoc, which is about 40 miles southeast of Green Bay.

In the lawsuit, the federal agency said the retailer changed Spaeth’s long-time work schedule and refused to accommodate her requests for different hours, even though she faced challenges because of her disability. fell. It said it struggled to keep up with the new hours, leading to disciplinary action for absenteeism. Ultimately, the company fired Spaeth, although it had received positive performance reviews from managers. The EEOC said his mother and sister refused to re-hire him, even after they tried to intervene and find a solution.

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“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 Julian Bowman said in a press release. “Ms. Spaeth’s request was a simple request and her denial made a profound difference to her life.”

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the company was reviewing its next steps. He said the retailer wanted to settle the matter with Spaeth, but said the EEOC’s demand was “unreasonable.”

He said the verdict would be reduced to $300,000, the maximum allowed under federal law.

“We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, and we regularly accommodate thousands of associates each year,” he said. “We frequently adjust associate schedules to meet our clients’ expectations and while Ms. Spaeth’s schedule was adjusted, it remained within the time she indicated she was available.”

The EEOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As of Friday afternoon, Walmart shares were relatively unchanged. They were less than one cent at $141.53. Shares of the retailer have fallen nearly 2% so far this year.

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