Walmart fined $125.15 million over dispute with former employee with Down syndrome

SKOKIE, IL - JANUARY 17: Customers shop at a Walmart store on January 17, 2017 in Skokie, Illinois. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's largest employer, announced today that it plans to create approximately 10,000 retail jobs this year through the opening of 59 new, expanded and relocated Walmart and Sams Club facilities and e-commerce services. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A Wisconsin jury ordered Walmart to pay $125.15 million on three claims of disability discrimination for one of its former employees, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said Friday, but the retailer is disputing the amount.

The jury found that Walmart failed to accommodate Marlo Spaeth, who has Down syndrome, in 2015 when they changed her scheduled and she struggled to adjust. Walmart fired her instead of returning her to a schedule she was able to work, the EEOC said.

The jury awarded Spaeth $150,000 in compensatory damages and $125 million in punitive damages.

“The substantial jury verdict in this case sends a strong message to employers that disability discrimination is unacceptable in our nation’s workplaces,” EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said in a statement. “All of those who come forward to ensure the right to a workplace free of discrimination do a service to our nation.”

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove told CNBC the company tried to resolve the matter with the EEOC but their requirements “were unreasonable.” Hangrove said the company was trying to decide what options it has.

Hargrove said that, according to the EEOC’s website, the limit for such payouts is $300,000 for companies like Walmart, and he expects the jury reward to be reduced.

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