$2M Discrim Award Back on Track Against Wal-Mart

October 7, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Saying they saw "sufficient evidence of reprehensible or recklessly indifferent conduct" by retailing giant Wal-Mart to support a nearly $2-million verdict in a sexual discrimination case, jurists on Massachusetts highest court restored the jury award.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made the move in a case involving a female pharmacy manager who claimed she was paid less than her male counterparts and later discharged.

The latest development in Cynthia Haddad vs. Wal-Mart Stores Inc , came as a result of the employer’s appeal of the $973,000 in compensatory damages after a Massachusetts state judge threw out the $1 million punitive damage component of the jury award (see Former MA Wal-Mart Worker Wins nearly $2M Jury Award ). The Bay State high court upheld the compensatory figure and reversed the lower court’s decision to invalidate the punitive amount.

class=”first”> According to the ruling, Haddad had worked in a temporary position in the Pittsfield, Massachusetts store where she claimed she was compensated at a lower rate than male pharmacists. The ruling said Haddad was also fired after a 2004 incident involving a fraudulent prescription, despite the fact that a male pharmacist in the same situation was not discharged.

“Wal-Mart employees gave inconsistent reasons for the plaintiff’s termination, and were also inconsistent regarding who was responsible for the decision,” the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled. “There was ample evidence from which a jury could have inferred that …Wal-Mart acted with discriminatory intent.”

Jurists on the court also contended there was evidence that male pharmacists were not disciplined for more serious infractions – including some situations involving state or federal crimes.