He worked as a cart-pusher at the Walmart on Milwaukee Road for 16 years before a new manager took over the store and rearranged his working life. The longtime employee has a developmental disability and is also deaf and visually impaired. He had a reasonable accommodation from Walmart, receiving assistance from a job coach who was paid by public funding.
But the new manager of the Beloit store had other ideas that included ending the accommodation and terminating the man’s employment. Despite the significant challenges inherent in his situation, the former Walmart worker has prevailed, however. After a three-and-a-half-day trial in his disability discrimination lawsuit, a federal jury awarded him $5.2 million in damages.
The story essentially begins with the hiring of the new manager. Within the first month on the job, the manager suspended the worker and insisted that he resubmit medical documentation in order to keep his reasonable accommodation. When the worker did as requested and resubmitted the medical paperwork with the help of his legal guardian, he asked simply that his accommodation continue as before.
Rather than resume the reasonable accommodation, “the store cut off communication and effectively terminated him,” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said.
The federal jury found that Walmart violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to accommodate the employee’s disabilities. The jury awarded him $200,000 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. As the term implies, punitive damages are intended as punishment for especially harmful behavior.
“Employers have a legal obligation under federal law to work with employees who need accommodations for disabilities,” said an EEOC spokesperson. “In this case, the jury sent a strong message to Walmart and to other employers that if they fail to live up to their obligations under the law, they will be penalized.”
If a Milwaukee employer has violated the ADA and discriminated against you because of a disability, contact the employment law attorneys of Alan C. Olson and Associates to discuss your options.