Posted by Tyler Fearon.
This huge retail corporation, also known as Walmart, was sued for the wrongful firing of Marlo Spaeth, an employee with down syndrome after working there for almost 16 years. This had not been the first incident with Walmart as attorney for Disability Rights Wisconsin, Monica Murphy, had represented six Wisconsin women with disabilities in the previous years. A main issue that disabled people such as Spaeth faced, was Walmart “refusing to accommodate these workers and instead took away their hours or forced them to take unpaid leave.” This decision by Walmart is unethical because they are discriminating against people with disabilities and disregarding their rights within the workplace. For example, a worker with disabilities needs accommodations that a worker without disabilities needs putting them at a disadvantage for work. Spaeth had been working at Walmart for more than ten years “folding towels, tidying aisles, and helping customers.” The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s main argument was how this corporation unfairly fired Spaeth rather than making the accommodations necessary for her disability. Equal opportunity is a colossal issue within the workplace because employers like Walmart would rather let go of a qualified person with a disability and give the job to a “normal person.”
Back in July of 2021, the court ruled that Walmart had violated a federal law. They ordered the corporation to pay more than $ 125 million in damages becoming one of the highest amounts in history for a single victim. After the ruling, the judge brought the money damages down to $ 300,000 which is the most allowed under this specific law. This was the right decision by the jurors as Spaeth was being wrongfully discriminated and she lost her job as a result. Currently, there is a holdup between Walmart and the EEOC to determine if the “nation’s largest private employer will face tighter supervision or be forced to make changes to its corporate policies.” I believe that there should be a committee to ensure that disabled people are being treated fairly and are receiving the accommodations necessary to fulfill their duties as an employee. Also, a revision of company policies would bring drastic changes in creating a positive and safe work environment for all employees with disabilities. After implementing these new changes, we can prevent this issue from arising time after time.
Walmart has claimed that they accommodate thousands of people with disabilities every year and even went so far to refute the EEOC’s request for more supervision. The corporation’s main argument was how they did not overstep the Americans with Disabilities Act and there was no evidence that they would do this to future employees. On the contrary, attorney Murphy claimed that Walmart began to utilize a “computerized scheduling system.” This new system had altered employees work schedules and the corporation denied fixing their hours. It is very unfair how these employees had been working on this schedule for many years and now Walmart steps in to change them. For example, two longtime employees with disabilities were fired when they said they would not be able to work eight-hour shifts and they had never returned to work. Workers should be given the choice to continue working on their own schedules or change to the schedule given by this computer system. These corporations are taking advantage of people with disabilities as they are basically saying take the schedule, we give you or we are firing you. In conclusion, I feel that there must be something in place to monitor the operations of employers in order to prevent the discrimination Spaeth and many others have faced from happening.
Tyler is a sports managmeent major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2024.