Walmart fired an employee with Down syndrome who worked there for 16 years. A jury said it should pay her $125 million.

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Walmart fired an employee with Down syndrome who worked there for 16 years. A jury said it should pay her $125 million.
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
  • Walmart was hit with a $125 million verdict on Friday in a disability-discrimination case.
  • The company fired Marlo Spaeth, an employee with Down syndrome who worked at Walmart for 16 years.
  • Walmart said it expected the verdict to be reduced to $300,000 because of a federal law.

A federal jury determined on Friday that Walmart violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it fired an employee with Down syndrome following issues related to her work schedule.

After a four-day trial in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the jury awarded Marlo Spaeth $125 million in damages. Before her termination, Spaeth worked at Walmart for about 16 years.

A Walmart spokesperson told Insider the verdict was expected to be reduced to $300,000, which is the maximum amount allowed under federal law.

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The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission represented Spaeth, presenting evidence on three claims of disability discrimination against Walmart.

The commission said that a change to Spaeth's previously consistent schedule caused her "significant difficulty" and that Walmart denied her request to revert to the prior work schedule through 60- to 90-minute adjustments. Instead, she was fired.

"We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, and we routinely accommodate thousands of associates every year," Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesperson, told Bloomberg Law. "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.

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"We're sensitive to this situation and believe we could have resolved this issue with Ms. Spaeth, however the EEOC's demands were unreasonable."

The EEOC said evidence from the trial showed that Spaeth consistently received positive evaluations from her managers. After being terminated, Spaeth asked to be rehired and was later denied.

Last year, Walmart paid $20 million to settle an EEOC lawsuit that said a physical-abilities test disproportionately excluded female applicants from jobs as grocery-order fillers.

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"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, the regional attorney of the EEOC's Chicago District Office, said.

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