Marlo Spaeth, who has Down syndrome, gave 16 years of her working life to Walmart. But America's largest private employer was not so loyal in return, firing her to avoid accommodating her disability. Backed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Spaeth yesterday won her job back, with $50,000 back pay, after a five-year court battle.
But a $125m fine imposed by jurors was slashed to just $300,000, the statutory maximum, and Judge William Griesbach denied the commission's request that Walmart be ordered to train managers to understand the Americans with Disabilities Act and to inform employees of their legal rights.
The bad publicity was punishment enough.
Stevenson said in a CNBC interview in July that when her sister lost her job, she lost her sense of purpose. She wouldn't come to the phone or pose for a photo. She buried her head in her hands when a Walmart commercial came on TV.
"It was nothing short of traumatic," Stevenson said in the interview. "It was hard, very difficult to watch."
$50k representing five years' lost wages (upon which Spaeth will now have to pay taxes) really hammers home how dismal this case is. Consider how much the company must have spent in the last five years, fighting this disabled woman tooth and claw.