The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asked a federal judge last week to allow it to monitor Walmart Inc. of Bentonville for five years after a Wisconsin jury found the retailer failed to accommodate a longtime employee with Down syndrome.
In its motion, the EEOC asked for oversight to ensure that Walmart employees won’t be denied reasonable accommodations in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The EEOC sued Walmart in 2017 on behalf of Marlo Spaeth, who has Down syndrome. She began working for Walmart in Wisconsin in 1999 as a sales associate, where her duties included folding towels and helping customers find items.
In court filings, the EECO said that, because of her disability, Spaeth needed a consistent schedule and one that allowed her to take the bus. But in November 2014, Walmart’s computer-generated scheduling system, designed to make sure there were enough employees to meet customer demand, changed Spaeth’s schedule. But Spaeth had trouble adjusting and would leave work early. Walmart would count her as absent, and she was eventually fired in July 2015 for excessive absenteeism.
In July, a jury awarded $150,000 in compensatory damages for emotional pain and mental anguish plus $125 million in punitive damages against Walmart. That amount was lowered to $300,000, the maximum amount allowed under federal law.
In its filing last week, the EEOC asked Judge William Griesbach to impose several requirements against Walmart for five years. Those include requiring Walmart to report to the EEOC involving requests for accommodations.
The EEOC also wants Walmart to modify its policies to clarify that long term or permanent disability accommodations may be granted if they don’t impose undue hardship. And it wants Walmart to provide additional training to its managers regarding the policies, including adherence to Walmart’s EEOC policies as a factor in management performance reviews, according to the filing.
Walmart should also be required to inform employees in its region of more than 100 stores of the verdict in the case and remind workers of their right to contact the EEOC without fear of retaliation, the filing said.
The EEOC asked that Walmart pay Spaeth $186,825 for back pay and other damages.
Walmart said it is reviewing the filing and will be filing a response with the court.
“We take supporting all our associates seriously, and for those with disabilities we routinely accommodate thousands every year,” said Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman, told Arkansas Business
The EEOC’s motion is pending.