This was one of the first times a Day in the Life Video was brought in on an Equal Employment discrimination case.
The video was intended to show that the disabled plaintiff can take direction and perform a job by himself. He has a developmental disability, is deaf and visually handicapped. He worked as a cart pusher at the Beloit Walmart for 16 years. A new manager started at the store in 2015 and placed him on paid suspension although the plaintiff had performed his job with the assistance from a job coach provided by public funding. The senior director of national media for Walmart said the new manager had concerns about the disabled worker’s safety and asked for an official accommodations review process. The company determined the plaintiff could not perform the essential parts of his job. Federal court documents show he was never paid beyond the first two weeks of his suspension and once the new paperwork was submitted cut off all communications and terminated him. In March 2017, the EEOC issued a Letter of Discrimination finding the American Disabilities Act was violated and In Sept. of 2017 in the District Court for the Western District of WI a lawsuit was filed. After a four-day trial, a federal jury in Madison found in favor of the EEOC and awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $5 million in punitive damages. Due to federal law, the combined amount of damages is capped at $300,000.
Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago district says this is an important case for the disabled community.
“When companies shirk the need for accommodations,” said Gochanour, “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 if they fail to live up to their obligation they will be penalized.”