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Violating the ADA doesn’t pay—just ask Walmart

by M. Alison Reed, JD

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is “one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream American life – to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services.” (www.ada.gov)

Marlo Spaeth is one of these people. Marlo, a seasoned Walmart employee of 16 years, has Down Syndrome. Marlo’s schedule at the retail giant followed the same pattern for years—until Walmart decided to alter it. The change caused hardships for Marlo, who requested that Walmart change her schedule back to its original pattern. Marlo’s mother and sister also spoke to Walmart on her behalf, encouraging the company to grant Marlo’s request alleviating the hardships caused by the schedule change. Walmart refused. Marlo had difficulty adjusting to the new schedule, which lead to increased absenteeism and, eventually, her termination. (EEOC v.Wal-Mart Stores East, E.D. Wis.,No. 1:17-cv-00070 (E.D. Wis. 2021))

The ADA requires that employers provide “reasonable accommodations” for a worker’s disability. Marlo Spaeth was asking that her schedule be altered back to her original shift—a change of 60-90 minutes at the beginning and end of her shift. When Marlo was working her original schedule, she received “consistently positive reviews and feedback from her managers.” This led the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to believe Walmart “failed to provide reasonable accommodations” to Marlo, eventually firing her “due to her disability.” (Ryskamp, Dani Alexis, Jury Decides Walmart Must Pay Over $125 Million in Disability Discrimination Case, www.expertinstitute.com, July 29, 2021)

The EEOC sued Walmart on Marlo’s behalf, winning a judgment in excess of $125 million dollars. The judge has altered that amount according to federal statutory maximums, and Marlo Spaeth waits to hear the final amount of her settlement—which should include amounts to cover Marlo’s lost wages, litigation costs, and interest.

Have you or someone you know lost a job or not been considered for a position due to a disability? Have you recently been diagnosed with a disability and believe you may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSD/SSDI) or Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI)? Do you have a child with a disability or special needs? The lawyers at Goodin Abernathy can help.

Applying for disability can be frustrating. The process takes a long time and oftentimes first time applicants are denied. Do you need someone to help walk you through the appeals process? Represent you in a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge? You don’t have to attempt this difficult process alone. Call Goodin Abernathy today for a Free Consultation.