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A federal jury in Wisconsin on Friday awarded more than $125 million to a former Walmart employee with Down syndrome whom the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claimed was fired because of her disability, the agency said, though the award is likely to be reduced to $300,000. The jury found that Walmart failed to provide reasonable accommodation to Spaeth and fired her because of her disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the EEOC. The EEOC’s complaint in Green Bay court alleged that Walmart in its firing of Spaeth violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability.
In the lawsuit, the federal agency said the retailer changed Spaeth’s longtime work schedule and refused to accommodate her requests for different hours, even though she faced challenges because of her disability. The complaint also said she struggled to keep up with the new hours, leading to disciplinary action for absenteeism. Ultimately, the company fired Spaeth, despite her having received positive performance reviews from managers.
Spaeth worked as a sales associate at a Walmart in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, for about 15 years, and worked a regular schedule of 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., three or four days per week, according to the EEOC’s complaint. In late 2014, Walmart implemented a computerized scheduling system that changed Spaeth’s hours. Spaeth, whose condition requires her to keep a rigid schedule, informed supervisors that she was unable to maintain the new schedule. The new hours, for example, changed the time she ate dinner, which was making her sick, according to the EEOC. Walmart ultimately fired Spaeth, and later refused to rehire her, the commission alleged. Walmart maintained that Spaeth was terminated after leaving work early or failing to show up on more than a dozen occasions.
Walmart had moved for summary judgment in 2019, arguing that Spaeth was not qualified for the position under the ADA. The company also claimed that she could not perform the job even with reasonable accommodation, pointing to the days on which she did not come to work. It also declined to rehire her, even after her mother and sister tried to intervene and find a solution, the EEOC said.
Respond to the questions below, Answers should be long enough to support, provide justification and any examples if appropriate. .
1. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). “Employers, no matter how large, have an obligation under the law to evaluate the individual circumstances of employees with disabilities when considering requests for reasonable accommodations,” do you agree with this statement. Why or why not? Are there exceptions?
2. Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the retailer wanted to resolve the matter with Spaeth but said the EEOC’s demands “were unreasonable. Hargrove said. “We often adjust associate schedules to meet our customers’ expectations and while Ms. Spaeth’s schedule was adjusted, it remained within the times she indicated she was available.” Do you consider Walmart’s position on the case as value and just, or just an excuse to justify and cover up the real reason and mistakes in firing Spaeth? Explain your reasoning?
3. The EEOC exists because a lot of companies have policies and laws in place they think are fair but they really are not equal or fair for all employees. An example is removing a person from their job because they are pregnant and they may move at a slower pace or have physical challenges in their current condition. Or refusing to pay for an employee who gets hurt on the job’s medical expenses if they are undocumented. Share an example(s) you have witnessed or see of a company’s equal practices. If you cannot remember a time when you witnessed this, then research examples from the EEOC website. Explain the issue, cause, reasons, and results? Include your thoughts and feelings the examples you chose to discuss and what ways you would have handled the situation differently if you were the company or the employee?
4. Large companies like Walmart who have lots of lawyers on their payroll fight any allegations brought on by employees against them. The employee often cannot cover the expense or large legal fees for the amount of time required to fight and defend themselves against unfair employer treatments. Small businesses and companies do not have the financial revenue to hire lawyers. These types of law suits cost companies milllions of dollars when they loose. If you were Walmart, what would you have done differently on the Spaeth case? What are your thoughts as a business on how to eliminate ongoing issue of Employers Misconduct and Violations such as Sexual Harrasment & OSHA a? (refer to Unit 7 Lesson 2) What are some solutions and preventions companies can put in place to assure their employees and leaders are not violating? Discuss examples.