Worker with Down syndrome wins anti-discrimination lawsuit against Walmart

Judge orders Walmart to rehire worker with Down syndrome, but the U.S. retailer penny-pinches on compensation.

If you didn’t already know, America’s largest private employer, Walmart, totally suck!

A federal judge has ordered corporate giant, Walmart, to rehire a woman with Down syndrome and award her more than $50,000 in back pay after winning a lengthy disability discrimination lawsuit that saw her unlawfully fired in 2015.

Credit: Amy Jo Stevenson

Unfortunately, the judge denied a request from the U.S. Equal Employment Commission for increased oversight of Walmart’s policies after failing to make reasonable accommodations for employee Marlo Spaeth.

“We take supporting all our associates seriously and routinely accommodate thousands with disabilities every year,” Walmart said.

Walmart, America’s largest private employer, abruptly fired Spaeth in 2015 after nearly 16 years of gainful employment.

The EEOC requested the judge to add training for Walmart managers about the Americans with Disabilities Act, but this was denied.

The anti-discrimination organisation cited similar lawsuits where Walmart have been discriminative and just generally shitty to its employees.

But apparently the negative press generated by the lawsuit suffices, according to the judge: “The substantial verdict against Walmart and the publicity it generated serve as strong deterrents against any repeat of the conduct at issue in this case.

He also commented that the publicity will “create a strong incentive for Walmart to ensure that requests for reasonable accommodations are adequately addressed without court oversight of Walmart’s administration and enforcement of its policies and procedures”.

Initially, the jury awarded Spaeth $125 million in damages for the disability discrimination lawsuit, but this was immediately reduced by the judge to a statutory maximum of $300,000.

The EEOC and Walmart have contended in court over how to calculate Spaeth’s back pay to both comply with the judge’s orders and to offset the lump payment’s tax liability.

Sidenote: Walmart banked a “paltry” $559.15 billion for the fiscal year of 2021. The three heirs of Walmart founder Sam Walton – Alice Walton, Jim Walton and Rob Walton – ranked at 10, 11, and 12 on Forbes “Richest Americans” list.

But hey, let’s argue more about how to compensate an employee for an unlawful termination.

When Spaeth lost her job in 2015, she lamented to her sister, “why me? Why did they do this to me?”.

Spaeth worked four days a week from 12pm to 4pm, but in November 2014 her hours changed suddenly when the Walmart store switched to a computerised scheduling system that matched staffing levels with customer traffic.

Spaeth’s schedule changed to 1pm to 5:30pm. She struggled to adapt to this change, experiencing sickness and increased stress.

Despite attempts to formally resume her previous designated shifts, Spaeth would leave her workplace under the new shifts at 4pm.

This led to her firing under the cause of “ongoing absenteeism”.

Spaeth’s sister, Amy Jo Stevenson, said that she immediately “receded into a shell”.

Dr. David Smith, founder of the Down Syndrome Clinic of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, testified in court that Spaeth’s response mirrored the difficulties of many with Down syndrome, who have trouble with changes in daily routines.

Despite the difficulty of legislating against an enormous conglomerate such as Walmart, Marlo Spaeth should be commended for her tenacity and perseverance in overturning her unlawful discrimination.