Wal-Mart owes pharmacist $16.08 mln for gender bias, sum may drop

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By Jonathan Stempel

<span class="articleLocation”>Wal-Mart Stores Inc has been ordered by
a federal judge to pay $16.08 million to a former New Hampshire
pharmacist in a gender bias case, but the amount is only about
half what a jury awarded and may fall substantially further.

U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe also asked the New
Hampshire Supreme Court to advise whether the plaintiff Maureen
McPadden was entitled under state law to any of the $15 million
of “enhanced” damages that comprised most of the award.

Though “reasonable minds can differ,” Wal-Mart “asserts –
not implausibly” that such damages are not available, the
Concord, New Hampshire judge wrote on Jan. 6.

Wal-Mart considers the damages award “improper,” spokesman
Randy Hargrove said in an email. “We look forward to the New
Hampshire Supreme Court’s determination.”

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer has said it does
not tolerate discrimination.

McPadden accused the world’s largest retailer of using her
loss of a pharmacy key as a pretext for her November 2012
dismissal from a store in Seabrook, New Hampshire, after more
than 13 years at the retailer.

She said Wal-Mart actually fired her in retaliation for her
raising concerns about whether prescriptions were being filled
properly. McPadden also said her gender played a role, saying a
male pharmacist who later lost his key was not fired.

Jurors originally awarded McPadden $31.22 million, a sum
that McAuliffe said was “to say the least, startling.”

As required by federal law, the judge later reduced the
punitive damages component, to $300,000 from $15 million, and in
a Jan. 5 order said McPadden deserved just $111,591 of front
pay, one-fifth what the jury had awarded.

Wal-Mart had sought to overturn the entire verdict, but
McAuliffe rejected that request in September.

Rick Fradette, a lawyer for McPadden, said that if enhanced
damages were ever warranted, “it is where the world’s largest
private employer continues to discriminate against women in the
21st century.

“Wal-Mart’s posture has been that it will fight this to the
end,” he said. “We’ll see what the New Hampshire Supreme Court
has to say.”

The case is McPadden v. Wal-Mart Stores East LP, U.S.
District Court, District of New Hampshire, No. 14-00475.

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