Then, after nearly 16 years of working there, Walmart abruptly fired her in 2015. Spaeth, who has Down syndrome, was devastated.
Her sister and legal guardian, Amy Jo Stevenson, said that Spaeth quickly “receded into a shell” and lost the sense of purpose she got from the job at the Walmart Supercenter in Manitowoc, where she had thrived on interacting with customers and had received praise from supervisors in performance reviews.
Devastated. Sixteen years of her life seemed to have been snatched away from her. After hearing a four-day court case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a jury in Green Bay, Wisconsin, came back quickly with a record judgment of $125 million dollars. The verdict was meant to be a symbol of the level of her pain and suffering, as well as a reflection of the deliberate action that Walmart had taken to seemingly move an employee with a disability around internally in a way that set them up to fail so they could be fired.
Markos and Kerry talk Ukraine and speak with Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler on how hitting back at Republicans helps win elections
In 2020, Walmart reported $129 billion in profit, not counting other businesses where Walmart heirs have ownership stakes. The ownership group is reported to be worth roughly $240 billion, with each family member sitting on around $62 billion. For Walmart, though, Spaeth’s case isn’t over.
While the judge reduced the verdict to $300,000, the maximum allowed in the state, according to Spaeth’s sister, she was still excited about the possibility of going back to work at Walmart.
Walmart makes an interesting claim in its appeal, according to Disability Scoop:
“So while Walmart knew that Ms. Spaeth had requested a return to her prior fixed schedule, nothing in Walmart’s knowledge suggested that this request was linked to her Down syndrome,” reads the court filing, which requests a new trial. “Walmart did not act with malice or reckless indifference towards Ms. Spaeth’s rights.”
There is an interesting thing to note here: Walmart is effectively going to contend that it had no way of knowing that Down syndrome impacts a person’s ability to adjust to a schedule and that after a schedule has been the same for almost 16 years, it is not surprising that changes to that schedule would be exceptionally difficult for that person.
Walmart simply wasn’t aware that Spaeth had Down syndrome, it seems, or they never took it into consideration. Walmart just didn’t see her, or her disability. They knew her for 16 years, but never saw Spaeth for this part of who she was. So they must be blameless, right?
Note: this article originally had an incorrect profit margin pulled which has been corrected.
Comments are closed on this story.