On January 27, 2016, a federal jury in New Hampshire awarded a female pharmacist 31.22 million dollars in damages against Walmart after a trial of her lawsuit in which she alleged that Walmart terminated her employment because of her gender and in retaliation for complaining about safety conditions. McPadden v. Wal-Mart Stores East LP, No. 14-00475 (Dist. NH, 1/27/2016). The plaintiff alleged that Walmart’s proffered reason for her termination–that she lost her pharmacy key–was pretext for gender discrimination and retaliation. Her pretext argument was buttressed by disparate treatment evidence that one or more male pharmacists also lost their pharmacy keys, but were not fired.
The jury verdict consists of $164,093 in back pay, $558,392 in front pay, $500,000 in compensatory damages, and punitive damages of 15 million dollars on each of the plaintiff’s federal and state discrimination and retaliation claims. This result illustrates why most employment law cases are settled before trial and often before a lawsuit is even filed in court. The cost of defense is enormous, and damages of a very large magnitude may be awarded to employees who were terminated for unlawful reasons. Mediation of employment claims is a cost-effective alternative method of dispute resolution that enables employers to avoid the risks and cost of full-blown employment law litigation.