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Court OKs award against Walmart for treatment of Down syndrome employee


A Green Bay, Wisconsin, judge has refused to grant Walmart Inc. judgment as a matter of law, a new trial and to remit damages in a disability discrimination case filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a former employee with Down syndrome, and awarded her $419,663.

In 2021, a jury found that Walmart violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to accommodate Marlo Spaeth, a 16-year employee, and then fired her because of her disability. 

It awarded her $150,000 in compensatory damages and $125 million in punitive damages after a four-day trial. The court granted Walmart’s motion to reduce the award of compensatory and punitive damages to the statutory maximum of $300,000.

The court’s award Monday in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Wal-Mart Stores East LP reflected that $300,000 plus $44,758 in backpay, $6,000 in prejudgment interest and $69,000 for tax consequences.

In denying Walmart’s motion for judgment as a matter of law the court said, “It was the jury’s responsibility to assess credibility and resolve conflicts in the evidence regarding the obviousness of Spaeth’s need for an accommodation.

“The jury deemed the EEOC’s evidence to be more credible, and it is not for this court to substitute its views of the contested evidence for the jury’s where the jury’s findings were reasonable.”

Wal-Mart said in a statement, “We are reviewing the opinion and considering our options.”

The EEOC had no comment.