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Wal-Mart stung with $31 million jury verdict for firing pharmacist from NH store

Last month a federal jury in New Hampshire found that Wal-Mart discriminated against a pharmacist because of her sex and because she blew the whistle on unsafe conditions at the store.  The pharmacist, Maureen McPadden, worked at the Seabrook Wal-Mart store for 13 years before Wal-Mart fired her in 2012.  Wal-Mart fired her after she complained about violations of pharmacy regulations and negligent training and supervision of pharmacy staff.  Wal-Mart claimed that it fired her because she lost a key but the jury, obviously, believed that was just an excuse to cover up discrimination.  Indeed, there was evidence that a male pharmacist lost a key and Wal-Mart did not fire him.

“I honestly feel the jurors listened intently,” said McPadden.  “I really feel they wanted to send a message that the little guy has a voice, that Wal-Mart did something wrong.”

“The facts most certainly support the decision,” one of McPadden’s lawyers said. “A jury of eight conscientious New Hampshire residents heard compelling evidence for five days and determined Walmart willfully and with reckless disregard acted against Maureen McPadden’s New Hampshire rights to be protected from gender discrimination. (Walmart) fired her on a pretext that she had lost her key. But 12 months later a (male) pharmacist from the Plaistow (N.H.) Walmart lost his key and he wasn’t fired.”

“We respectfully disagree and are disappointed with the verdict,” said a Wal-Mart representative. “We do not tolerate discrimination of any type, and neither that nor any concern Ms. McPadden raised about her store’s pharmacy played a role in her dismissal. In our view, the decision is not supported by the facts or the law.”

Unfortunately, this $31 million verdict will likely be reduced because of limitations on damages in the statutes at issue in the case.  Because of those caps, the deterrent effect of the punitive damages award will have less of an impact on Wal-Mart.  Regardless, this verdict made national news and most certainly has caught Wal-Mart’s attention.

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