Walmart Dismisses $5.2M Fine After Firing Disabled Employee, Says It Does 'Not Believe the Verdict is Supported by the Evidence'

Walmart is looking at its options after a jury determined it violated federal law by firing a longtime disabled employee who was awarded $5.2 million in damages.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced on October 11 that the worker, who has a developmental disability and is deaf and visually impaired, was awarded the multimillion dollar damages after being let go from his job as a cart pusher in Beloit, Wisconsin, after 16 years when a new manager began at the store.

According to a lawsuit, within a month the employee in question was suspended and asked to resubmit medical paperwork in order to keep his reasonable accommodations required for his job.

"Prior to the suspension, the employee performed his job with the accommodation of assistance from a job coach provided by public funding. The employee's conditions had not changed," the EEOC said in a statement.

The suit claimed that when the worker and his legal guardian resubmitted the paperwork asking for the continuation of the job coach assistance, Walmart "cut off communication and effectively terminated him."

Following a three-and-a-half-day trial, a Wisconsin jury 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."

In a statement, Walmart dismissed the claim against them and said they tried to accommodate the employee. The company said he was asked to resubmit his medical paperwork due to safety concerns following an official accommodations review after the EEOC mentioned the worker's disability.

"After we applied the official accommodations review process, it was determined [the employee] could not perform the essential parts of his job with or without reasonable accommodations. As a result, he is no longer working at the store," the company said in a statement to Newsweek.

Walmart also believed the compensatory damages were excessive and the court "erred in allowing the jury to assess punitive damages at all." Walmart argued the combined amount of damages is capped at $300,000 under federal law.

"We are deeply sorry this matter reached this point. We don't tolerate discrimination of any kind, and we routinely accommodate thousands of associates every year," the company said in a statement. "We attempted to accommodate [the employee's] severe limitations for several years but ultimately that was no longer feasible.

"We believe we could have resolved this issue with [the employee], however the EEOC's demands were unreasonable. We are disappointed in the outcome, do not believe the verdict is supported by the evidence and are weighing our post-trial options."

Shoppers wait in line to pay for their purchases at a Walmart store in Los Angeles, California on November 24, 2009. A jury ruled Walmart violated federal law for firing a longtime employee and awarded the worker $5.2 million in damages. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty

This article was updated to include a statement from Walmart.