Former Beloit Walmart employee awarded $5.2 million in disability discrimination case

(Cropped Photo: JJBers / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 / License Link)
(Cropped Photo: JJBers / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 / License Link)(KWQC)
Published: Oct. 11, 2019 at 2:01 PM CDT
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A federal jury awarded a former longtime employee at a Beloit Walmart $5.2 million to accommodate the employee's disabilities.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an employee who has a developmental disability and is deaf and visually impaired, worked as a cart pusher at the Beloit Walmart for 16 years. The Walmart is located on the 2700 block of Milwaukee Road.

According to EEOC, a new manager started at the store in 2015 and placed the employee on paid suspension.The manager also forced him to resubmit medical paperwork in order to keep his accommodations. Prior to the suspension, the employee performed his job with the assistance from a job coach provided by public funding.

According to federal court documents, the employee was never paid beyond the first two weeks of his suspension.The EEOC states when the new paperwork was submitted, the store cut off communication and terminated his employment.

In March 2017, the EEOC issued a Letter of Discrimination to Walmart finding reasonable cause the American Disabilities Act was violated. They then communicated with Walmart to provide the opportunity to remedy the situation.

By August 2017, the EEOC informed Walmart that it was unable to secure a conciliation agreement acceptable to the EEOC. A lawsuit was filed in Sept. 2017 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

After a nearly four-day trial, a federal jury in Madison on Thursday found in favor of the EEOC and awarded the employee $200,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $5 million in punitive damages.

“Employers have a legal obligation under federal law to work with employees who need accommodations for disabilities,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District.“When companies shirk that obligation, the EEOC will fight to uphold the rights of disability discrimination victims. In this case the jury sent a strong message to Walmart and to other employers that if they fail to live up to their obligations under the law, they will be penalized.”