Clearly Walmart didn’t learn from its mistake two years ago when it fired an employee with Down syndrome. Again, the EEOC stepped in and accused Walmart of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. A jury determined in 2021 that Walmart wrongfully fired deli worker Marlo Spaeth in 2015. She worked for nearly 16 years at a Walmart Supercenter, until Walmart refused to accommodate her disability when her working hours were changed. She suffers from Crohn’s disease and asked for excused absences for medical appointments and hospitalization, as well as requesting to be moved to a position closer to the bathroom.
The verdict: Walmart was ordered to pay more than $125 million in damages for its treatment of Spaeth, but the amount was reduced to $300,000, the maximum allowed under the law. According to CNBC, Spaeth and her family endured a seven-year battle with Walmart and at the time of publication (Nov 2022) she “hadn’t seen a penny”.
Two Recent Walmart Disability Discrimination Lawsuits
One of the latest lawsuits was filed in North Carolina, again by the EEOC, alleging Walmart fired an employee for violating the company’s attendance policy after nine “unauthorized” absences in a period of six months. Like Spaeth, plaintiff Adrian Tucker worked in the deli and suffers from Crohn’s disease.
The second lawsuit filed by the EEOC said Walmart illegally demoted Calvin Hagan for missing too much work at a Raleigh, North Carolina store because of seizures caused by his generalized convulsive epilepsy, and then illegally fired him for violating its attendance policy, according to Reuters. Hagan had worked at Walmart for six years. He started out as a cashier and was promoted to general merchandise support manager, until April 2018 when he was demoted to work sales in the deli. Four months after being demoted, Hagan was fired after a supervisor warned him to “watch your absences”. Hagan’s case is EEOC v Wal-Mart Stores East LP, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina, No. 23-00160.
Hagan’s lawsuit was filed just three days after the EEOC slammed Walmart with a similar complaint for firing Adrian Tucker. She too had worked the deli in a Statesville, North Carolina Walmart since early 2014. Tucker, who also suffers with Crohn’s disease, was fired because she had too many “unauthorized” absences related to her inflammatory bowel condition.
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"Employees with disabilities should be able to seek medical treatment without fear of losing their jobs," EEOC lawyer Melinda Dugas said in a statement. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA protects individuals from disability discrimination in the workplace and which, absent undue hardship, requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to allow disabled employees to perform the essential functions of the job. All three lawsuits accused Walmart of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, and sought back pay and punitive damages.