MANITOWOC, Wis. (WFRV) – A judge has ordered Walmart to rehire a Manitowoc woman with Down Syndrome after the company allegedly fired her due to her disability.

Marlo Spaeth had been employed at a Walmart in Manitowoc for 16 years before she was let go in 2015 after the Supercenter refused to make disability-related accommodations for her.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Spaeth’s difficulties began when her schedule, which had been kept the same since she started working at the store, abruptly changed due to a new computerized scheduling system.

The system reportedly forced Spaeth to work longer and later shifts affecting her normal routine. Because of Spaeth’s disability, she had trouble adapting to the changes.

Spaeth, who was described as being a good employee, repeatedly asked Walmart to return her to her normal schedule citing the difficulties that the new schedule was posing in her life.

Walmart denied her requests and shortly after fired her. 

Spaeth’s sister, Amy Stevenson, who acts as her guardian, allegedly tried to protect her sister’s rights under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and demanded that Walmart rehire Spaeth and allow her to work her normal schedule.

Walmart again refused to fulfill this request.

This decision sparked outrage within the community and resulted in the EEOC filing a disability discrimination case against Walmart in 2017.

The lawsuit requested that the court order Walmart to reinstate Ms. Spaeth with appropriate back pay as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

According to a release, in 2021, a Green Bay jury awarded Spaeth $150,000 in compensatory damages and $125 million in punitive damages.

“The substantial jury verdict, in this case, sends a strong message to employers that disability discrimination is unacceptable in our nation’s workplaces,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows.

Just a few months later, in February of 2022, Spaeth received another win in the case. A Wisconsin judge voted in favor of Walmart reinstating Spaeth.

According to Walmart Representative, Randy Hargrove, the Supercenter will comply with the judge’s decision. Hargrove added that backpay for Spaeth has not been determined.