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Man With Special Needs Awarded $450K In Discrimination Suit

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A jury has awarded nearly a half-million dollars to a Texas man who said he was harassed and wrongly fired from his job at the nation’s largest grocery chain because of his disabilities.

Karl Tipple, 25, sued Kroger claiming that a store manager at the Plano, Texas location where he worked repeatedly called him a “retarded idiot” who was “too stupid to live.” Tipple said that the harassment occurred for nearly a year before he was fired in December 2011.

Now a federal jury has awarded Tipple more than $450,000 in damages.

“This was clearly a case where a high-functioning person with disabilities was victimized by his manager with the support of Kroger higher management,” Joe Kendall of the Kendall Law Group, which represented Tipple, said in a statement. “After he reported the abuse, Kroger refused to investigate his claims, and instead fired him.”

Tipple, who has multiple learning disabilities and graduated from a high school special education program, had worked for Kroger for nearly five years before he was transferred to a new store in November 2010 where he was assigned to work as an assistant bakery manager. But, despite previously receiving high marks for his work, Tipple said he was quickly demoted to a part-time position.

Kroger representatives did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the case but told WFAA in Dallas that they are “disappointed in the outcome of the trial, and are evaluating all their options, including an appeal.”

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Comments (16 Responses)

  1. Lori Owen says:

    I think it is about time companies start paying for their wrong doings. This young man had done a good job for 5 years. What changed was not this young man but the store policy.

  2. Diane says:

    How sad that they don’t investigate the option of treating him with human decency and allowing to succeed to his potential! :/

  3. vmgillen says:

    I am heartened to see headlines like this – mainly because presumably other companies, and their HRs and managers, also see them. If this guy is getting any support – SSDI, Medicaid, housing, service co-ordination, etc, this payment went first to the attorney and then the balance to the state… and then I see the attorney found it necessary to qualify his client with “high functioning.” Huh?

  4. Kaylar4 says:

    It’s about time that major chains are made to pay for their discrimination towards people with disabilities! If I were a manager, I’d hire Mr. Tipple over any Kroger manager in a heartbeat.

  5. Elizabeth Sampson says:

    this is insane! my disabled adult daughter (with hidden disabilities) woked for dunkin donuts for about a month before she was let go. she never disclosed she had disabilities, so they felt that she moved too slowly and did not catch on fast enough. when she finally got irritated with them for getting irritated with her she disclosed her disability and asked for accomodations. next thing she knew, she was not getting ANY hours…for a couple weeks. she called a number of times to ask for her schedule, to no avail. last time she called some employee told her “since you are not on the schedule, i guess you don’t work here any more”. there’s even more to the story, and needless to say, we filed with the mcad. we are waiting to hear the company’s position reply. they refused to answer to the legal aide which contacted them, so the attorney general had to contact them. it’s been a nightmare. i hope all people with disabilities will band together and stand up against these companies. they need to get what’s coming to them…our kids have a hard enough time trying to make lives for themselves, and then they have to deal with these companies. it’s crazy.i’m sure if they had people in THEIR familites with disabilities it would be a totally different story.

  6. Liz Goulart says:

    This is great news! People with disabilities have an enormously difficult time just finding a job. This kind of harassment is more common than you would think. I am so happy for the
    man that won this case. He deserves every penny! Most people with challenges are the best employees.
    They come to work on time or early, they are dressed well, and they try so hard to do their best! They are loyal and trustworthy! Bravo to the law team that helped win this case!!!!

  7. Ellen Peters says:

    I am sorry that Kroger handled this so poorly. We have a Kroger store in our area that hires a number of individuals with disabiliteis. As far as I can tell they are treated very well in our Kroger. Many have been working in our store for over 10 years and are part of the norm. Perhaps it makes a difference that we are a small town and these individuals have lived in our community most of their lives. They went to school with many of the people who shop at the store or their parents are friends of people who shop etc. Harder to be abusive when there is built in supervision and accountability.

  8. Heather says:

    What a disappointing situation with Kroger. Our local stores (operating under a different business name), seem to employ only a few adults with developmental disabilities, in rather visible positions. I would be horrified if I learned they were being mistreated! Shame on Kroger corporate for refusing to investigate and trying to sweep the problem under the rug! I’m certain that if this involved the sexual harassment of a neurotypical individual the situation would have been addressed, but they seem to feel very comfortable marginalizing an individual they thought incapable of advocating for himself. Good job, Tipple! And shame, shame, shame, Kroger!!

  9. Brian Bishoff says:

    He should set up a self funded special needs trust with an experienced attorney so his benefits are not effected.

  10. Betty Young says:

    I’m just sorry there’s not a Kroger’s store here in the San Antonio area so that I could boycott them! What they did was absolutely inexcusable. Weazles!! I’m sorry Karl had to endure this.

  11. KathyG says:

    I shop at Dillon’s aka Kroger. The store I shop at has hired several people with obvious disabilities and they seem to be treated well. Don’t boycott one Kroger store because of the actions of one manager who was coldhearted.

  12. Doris Riley says:

    Way to go. The nerve of people. I hope you enjoy your money. Some people need to be taught a lesson on life. God bless you and I hope it wakes people up.

  13. marie camp says:

    I am very disappointed in stores who show no respect to their employees. This action was totally uncalled for and I am very glad they are paying the price. I hope the CEO has implemented new policies and the parties invovled were fired.

  14. PATRICIA P. says:

    yes, the employer should pay for their wrong doing and discrimination. I believe that the half a million dollars for discrimination and harassment is too much compensation. There are cases of medical malpractice where infants incur a disability for life. Settlements of $1-2 million are often negotiated. It’s not a lot for one’s life. I feel strongly about disability rights and am outraged at the man’s mistreatment, but his settlement just seems very disproportionate. -signed mom who “settled” for here son, rather than risk walking away with nothing.

  15. Meh says:

    Like we say in the vocational rehabilitation business (we provide job coaching and other supports in the workplace for persons with disabilities), everything is “fine” right up until they fire the person with disabilities and when the workplace changes (not the client), suddenly there are performance “problems”. A supportive and understanding workplace can make all the difference in workplace success persons with barriers (and that goes for the so-called non-disabled).

    Good for him for suing.

    I bet that manager is in a world of trouble (or should be) for costing Kroeger a boatload of money.

    When will people learn? When will businesses learn? Didn’t anyone there received EEOC training?

  16. greg damewood says:

    What a display of a person in charge being abusive. His boss should be demoted to part-time and asked to do community service to resume full duties. The community service should be at a day program supporting those with severe disabilities so the manager can appreciate his health and lifestyle. As to the award over this abuse – if he ever gets it – a special needs trust will be to his advantage as his medical insurance and other now needed government benefits will be lost with an award of this size. My daughter is disabled and I am an advocate. Trusting the attorneys that represented him will follow through to assure he is properly advised.

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