Wal-Mart Hit With $31-Million Verdict for Firing Whistleblowing Pharmacist

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

February 2, 2016

A federal jury in New Hampshire has awarded more than $31 million in damages to a former Wal-Mart pharmacist who claims the nation's largest retailer fired her for raising safety concerns about how it filled prescriptions.

During her final year at Wal-Mart, 13-year employee Maureen McPadden complained twice to management that customers at her store were getting prescriptions improperly filled because of inadequate staff training. She also notified the New Hampshire Board of Pharmacy that a number of errors were being made that posed a threat to public safety.

Shortly after raising these safety concerns, Wal-Mart fired McPadden purportedly for losing her pharmacy key. However, the company allegedly did not terminate a male pharmacist who also had lost his key.

McPadden sued Wal-Mart for gender discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination. The jury award included $15 million in punitive damages. The award also included damages for back pay, lost wages and compensatory damages.

Wal-Mart has said it will ask the court to set aside the verdict or reduce the damages award. Company spokesman Randy Hargrove said, "The facts do not support this decision," adding that Wal-Mart does not support discrimination of any type.

This marks the company's biggest employment law setback since the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a $151-million award to workers at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores for unpaid break time and other off-the-clock work. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart is currently fighting a lawsuit filed by several Wisconsin women who claim the retailer denied them equal pay and equal opportunities.