Jul 18, 2021 - Economy

Jury orders Walmart to pay $125M after firing woman with Down Syndrome

A Walmart store

A Walmart store in Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A Wisconsin jury this week awarded a woman with Down Syndrome $125 million in punitive damages in her suit against Walmart for wrongful termination, the New York Times reports.

State of play: Marlo Spaeth began working at Walmart as a sales associate in 1999. In November 2014, after Walmart altered her shift schedule, Spaeth repeatedly asked the company to return her normal work hours, per the Times.

  • Spaeth's Down Syndrome meant she benefited from a regular routine and the new schedule was a "significant hardship," her lawyers argued, according to the Times.
  • In July 2015, Walmart fired Spaeth for excessive absenteeism, which Spaeth and her lawyers argued was caused by the new schedule. Her termination letter said she could be rehired, but Walmart refused to do so despite Spaeth's entreaties to get her old job back, per the Times.

The bottom line: The jury awarded Spaeth $125 million in punitive damages and $150,000 in compensatory damages, noting that Walmart had violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, reports the Times.

  • A Walmart spokesperson told Business Insider that the company expects damages will be reduced to $300,000, the maximum amount allowed under federal law for compensatory and punitive damages.
Go deeper