It is hard to believe that discrimination continues to plague the workplace in this day and age, but it does. The best way we can help encourage change is to call out bad actors when they do wrong. In a recent case, a woman did just that and took on retail mega-giant Walmart for allegations of disability discrimination.
The case began in 2014. At that time, Walmart changed one of their employee’s schedules. The employee, who has Down syndrome, normally worked most weekdays from 12 to 4 p.m. Walmart changed her schedule in such a way that she often worked until after 5. She requested the company return her schedule to her original work schedule, but they refused. Instead, Walmart chose to fire the employee.
The former employee then took the case to court arguing that the company’s decision to fire her instead of granting an accommodation was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The woman had worked for Walmart for over a decade prior to the schedule change. The employee argued that the termination was unreasonable, as the retail giant regularly makes similar accommodations for thousands of employees every single year.
After reviewing the evidence, the jury agreed with the employee. The jury awarded the employee $150,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $125 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages are additional monetary awards that are meant to serve as a type of punishment for the offender. In this case, it is likely the jury wanted to send a message to the retail giant. Federal law does not allow the court to require that large of an amount in this type of a case. Instead, it had to be reduced to $300,000.
The important take-away lesson from this case is a reminder that discrimination of this type is more than just unethical; in many cases it is illegal. Whether disability, age, gender, or another form of protected class those who face discrimination can stand up and fight back. The attorneys at Alan C. Olson & Associates can help.