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Walmart is seeking a new lawsuit in a case involving the firing of a longtime employee with Down syndrome. A jury found in July that Walmart had wrongfully dismissed the employee, Marlo Spaeth, and awarded her financial compensation.
In a lawsuit late Tuesday, Walmart said it was unaware of the connection between Spaeth’s disability and her struggle to adapt to a new work schedule that ultimately led to her firing. Spaeth served as a store employee at a Walmart SuperCenter in Wisconsin for nearly 16 years.
The big-box retailer further claims that the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which represented Spaeth in the case, did not show evidence that Walmart “discriminated against her” with malice or with ruthless indifference to [her] federally protected rights. ‘ “The company requests that the compensation required to pay Spaeth be discarded and that a new lawsuit be warranted.
Walmart declined to comment beyond the filing. The EEOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The request for a new lawsuit extends a years-long battle between the company and the EEOC in the disability discrimination lawsuit. Walmart, the largest private employer in the country, lost the disability case against the EEOC last year. The federal agency took up the case on behalf of Spaeth.
A jury and judge found that Walmart violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it fired Spaeth instead of adjusting her schedule as a “reasonable adjustment” to her disability. Her working hours changed when the Walmart store began using a computer-controlled scheduling system.
Spaeth and her sister, Amy Jo Stevenson, repeatedly asked supervisors to restore her old schedule, but Walmart refused, according to the lawsuit. Walmart began counting days when Spaeth left the store early and later fired her due to excessive absence.
A federal jury in July ordered the company to pay more than $ 125 million in damages in the lawsuit – one of the highest in the federal agency’s history for a single victim. These damages were later reduced to $ 300,000, the maximum allowed under federal law.
In late February, a federal judge ordered Walmart to re-employ Spaeth and give her more than $ 50,000 in arrears.
Stevenson told CNBC last week that her sister would soon return to her job at the Walmart store. She said the couple maintained Spaeth’s start date.
Stevenson said her sister’s decision to return after all she had been through was easy, saying she missed customers and was eager to put her Walmart vest back on.
“She’s going to go in there proud as a peacock,” Stevenson told CNBC last week. “That’s who she is. She’s a Walmart employee. Becoming that again will make her whole somehow.”
Stevenson heard about Walmart’s application when he was contacted by CNBC Wednesday morning.
“We think the jury got it right the first time,” she said.