Walmart Wants ADA Case Retried
Eight months after a jury ordered Walmart to pay a former employee with a disability over $125 million for failing to provide appropriate accommodations, the retailer is seeking a new trial.
Marlo Spaeth, who has Down syndrome, worked at a Manitowoc, Wis. Walmart for more than 15 years, always garnering positive evaluations, but she was fired in July 2015 after she struggled to adjust to changes in her longtime work schedule, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued Walmart on behalf of Spaeth.
In July 2021, a jury found that Walmart violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and awarded Spaeth $150,000 in compensatory damages and $125 million in punitive damages. The award was subsequently reduced to $300,000, the maximum allowed under the law.
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Now, however, Walmart claims that it was unaware that Spaeth’s difficulty adjusting to her new schedule was related to her Down syndrome diagnosis. In a court filing last week, the company said that Spaeth never provided a doctor’s note and cited an EEOC medical expert who testified that most people — including most medical professionals — “have no idea” that people with Down syndrome have trouble adjusting to new schedules.
“So while Walmart knew that Ms. Spaeth had requested a return to her prior fixed schedule, nothing in Walmart’s knowledge suggested that this request was linked to her Down syndrome,” reads the court filing, which requests a new trial. “Walmart did not act with malice or reckless indifference towards Ms. Spaeth’s rights.”
Spaeth’s sister Amy Jo Stevenson recently told CNBC that Spaeth was preparing to return to her job at Walmart. When she learned of the retailer’s latest request to the court, the network reports that Stevenson said “we believe the jury got it right the first time.”
The EEOC did not respond to a request for comment about the matter.