Wal-Mart claims it has been raking in the bucks on its $4 prescription drug program, but today the company got an expensive drug bill of its own. The company will have to shell out the equivalent of 500,000 prescriptions just to pay off one Wal-Mart pharmacist who was improperly terminated. Cynthia Haddad filed a lawsuit against her employer, Wal-Mart, in the community of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Haddad charged that she was fired because she had the gall to ask that she be paid the same as her male colleagues. A Superior Court Jury today awarded her a $2 million judgement — $1 million for punitive damages, and $1 million for compensatory damages. According to the Associated Press, Hadded broke down and cried after the verdict, which came after eight hours of deliberation. The trial itself lasted two weeks. Her attorney told the AP, “It sends a message that you can’t treat people poorly because of who they are.” Haddad was not some part-time, recent employee of Wal-Mart. She worked for the company for more than a decade in Pittsfield. She lost her position in April of 2004. She told jurors that she was terminated because she wanted the same pay as male pharmacists, and wanted the same bonus paid to pharmacy managers. She got her bonus, alright, and was fired just two weeks later. During the trial, Wal-Mart testified that Haddad was terminated after ten years of service because she left the pharmacy unattended, and allowed a technician to use her computer security code to issue prescriptions during her absence, including a fraudulent prescription for a painkiller. Haddad responded that the prescription in question was filled a year and a half before she was fired, and without her knowledge. She claimed that Wal-Mart had never fired anyone for “failure to secure the
pharmacy.” Haddad also charged that some male druggists in her store got away with worse transgressions than she did. Wal-Mart said in court that although Haddad was called a ‘manager’, she did not perform a manager’s duties. Apparently Haddad’s version of what happened was more convincing than that of her employer.
This is just another bitter pill for Wal-Mart to swallow. These kinds of jury verdicts are very embarrassing for the company. They offered no comment on this case, and did not immediately indicate if they would appeal — which they often do. Gender discrimination cases never sit well with the retailer’s efforts to keep its female customers happy. But this case is just one in long line of discrimination suits that have gone against Wal-Mart: including sex, gender and disability discrimination cases. It took Cynthia Haddad more than three years to have her day in court, but she won her case in litigation that she may have doubted she could ever win. Wal-Mart had the money, and the expert lawyers. But Haddad had her story, and today she proved she had been damaged by discrimination from a company that likes to say, “Our people make the difference.” In this case, the difference was about $2 million — and a bunch of negative headlines across the country. For similar stories, search Newsflash by “discrimination.”