With a developmental disability, visual impairment and deafness, he employed for 16 years as a cart pusher at a retail giant. Now, he’s been awarded $5.2 million in an employment disability discrimination lawsuit.
As our Orange County disability discrimination attorneys understand it, the man had been receiving a number of workplace accommodations pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which allowed him to be successful in his role. One of those accommodations was a job coach, paid for by federal disability funding.
His condition had not changed. What did change, The Associated Press, was that new manager came on-board. According to the complaint in EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, within just a month of the new manager taking charge, the worker was suspended and forced to resubmit the medical paperwork that allowed him access to reasonable accommodations.
The workers was only paid for the first two weeks of that suspension. But even after the employee re-submitted the paperwork, the store refused to allow him back on the floor. He remained suspended without pay, the store cut off communication with him and he was ultimately fired.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found reasonable cause that the company had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The agency sent a Letter of Discrimination to the store, offering a chance to remedy the violation. However, there was no conciliatory agreement reached, so the EEOC pursued the case to trial.
Following a four-day trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, jurors in the employment disability discrimination lawsuit decided the case in favor of the employee, awarding $200,000 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
Why This Employment Disability Lawsuit Warranted Punitive Damages
Compensatory damages in civil litigation are those awarded for actual losses, while punitive damages are intended to penalize the defendant for egregious or illegal conduct.
Violations of the ADA, which protects employees with disabilities by affording them the right to reasonable accommodations to do their jobs, are considered egregious. This worker had spent 16 years successfully completing the functions of his job with reasonable accommodation. There had been no change in his condition, as evidenced by the paperwork the employer compelled him to arbitrarily resubmit. There was no reason he should not have been able to continue working as he had been, and the company’s refusal to allow him is a fairly blatant example of disability discrimination.
Punitive damages are one of the most effective tools wielded by the legal system to compel those in positions of power and wealth to do the right thing. It serves not only as a penalty but a deterrent – for the defendant and others similarly situated – from committing such acts in the future.
It should be noted that while the EEOC took on this case, the agency is understaffed and only pursues employment lawsuits in a fraction of the discrimination cases filed with them. An experienced employment disability discrimination attorney can help examine the merits of your case and determine the best course of action.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.