The MA state Supreme Judicial Court restored $1 million in punitive damages awarded to a former pharmacist at a Wal-Mart in Pittsfield, who said she was fired after complaining about being paid less than her male colleagues.
The verdict – which also upheld a jury award for more than $700,000 in future wages lost – ends a long battle between Wal-Mart and its onetime employee, Cynthia Haddad, who first sued the retail giant for gender discrimination four years ago.
Haddad sued Wal-Mart in 2005, after working for the company from 1993 until she was fired in 2004.
She alleged that she was dismissed in retaliation for complaining about her pay after accepting a temporary job managing the pharmacy at the Pittsfield store.
The position was supposed to come with a bonus and an hourly pay raise of $1. For months, Haddad received neither, according to her suit, so she went to her supervisors about the missing pay.
She eventually received several weeks worth of bonuses, but none of the raise, and again approached supervisors. Haddad was given another bonus check in April 2004 – then fired five days later for allegedly violating Wal-Mart policy by leaving a technician unsupervised in the pharmacy, and allowing others to use her computer security code.
Haddad filed charges of gender discrimination in court, and in the summer of 2007 a jury awarded her $2 million in punitive and compensatory damages, and for emotional distress.
A judge later revoked half of that award, saying there was insufficient evidence to justify the $1 million in punitive damages the jury had decided to give Haddad.
In an appeal, Wal-Mart also contested the $733,307 in future pay that Haddad had been awarded for the estimated 19 years of working time she would have had left at the company before retiring. But the SJC ruling reaffirmed the jury’s original decision.
“There was evidence that Wal-Mart paid the plaintiff substantially less than less-experienced male pharmacists, refused to pay the plaintiff the pharmacy manager salary differential that it paid to male pharmacists, and terminated the plaintiff purportedly for a single policy violation,’’ Justice Judith A. Cowin wrote of the court’s unanimous decision, which also clarified the court’s standards for discrimination cases.
Haddad’s attorneys said the ruling provides closure for their client, and offers reassurance to others fighting discrimination.
If you or a family member has been subjected to wrongful termination or employment discrimination, then please contact the Fort Worth Texas Employment Discrimination Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 817-255-4001 or Contact Me Online.