Wal-Mart Discrimination Penalty Reduced By $4.7 Million
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 28, 2005
CENTEREACH, NEW YORK--A federal judge has had to cut $4.7 million from a jury award that Wal-Mart was ordered to pay to a former employee for disability discrimination.
The New York Law Journal reported that on June 22, Eastern District of New York Magistrate Judge James Orenstein cut the $5 million in punitive damages to just $300,000 for Patrick S. Brady because of a federal limit on such damages in the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
"There is no meaningful sense in which such an award can be considered punishment," Orenstein wrote in his opinion, pointing out that the retail giant racked up $300,000 in sales every 37 seconds last year.
"In essence then, most companies can be punished if they intentionally discriminate on the basis of disability . . . but the biggest companies that do so are effectively beyond the law's reach."
"The result," Orenstein concluded, "was that Brady was subjected to the kind of discrimination against the disabled that both the law and the prior consent decree was designed to prevent."
In February, a federal jury ordered Wal-Mart to pay the 20-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, $2.5 million in compensatory damages and the $5 million in punitive damages.
Brady claimed in his suit that the Centereach Mall Wal-Mart moved him out of the pharmacy on his second day of work in August 2002 to a job collecting shopping carts and picking up trash, even though he had two years experience as a pharmacy assistant.
Brady further alleged that he was reassigned despite the company's policy of giving employees a month to learn to do a new job. When he asked for a schedule, the pharmacist put him off, as did the personnel office. A store manager later told Brady the pharmacist determined he was not fit to do the work.
Brady also asserted that the store's actions violated an agreement Wal-Mart reached in 2001 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to settle $6.8 million in disability-related claims.
"Court Reluctantly Trims Wal-Mart Penalty" (New York Law Journal)