A New Hampshire federal jury ordered Walmart Stores Inc. to pay $31 million in damages to a former Walmart pharmacist who alleged she was wrongfully fired in retaliation for voicing concerns over pharmacy safety and gender discrimination.
Maureen McPadden had worked as a pharmacist at Walmart’s Seabrook pharmacy for 13 years when she was fired in November 2012 under the pretext, she claimed, of losing a pharmacy key. Ms. McPadden, 51, argued that the true reason she was fired was for sounding the alarm to store management that customers were being endangered because inadequately trained pharmacy technicians were filling prescriptions improperly.
The plaintiff also claimed store management discriminated against her because a male pharmacist at the same store had lost a key and was disciplined for it but never fired. The jury awarded most of the money on the gender discrimination claims, including $15 million in punitive damages.
After a five-week trial, the jury deliberated just two and a half hours before returning its verdict.
“I honestly feel the jurors listened intently,” Ms. McPadden told the Associated Press. “I really feel they wanted to send a message that the little guy has a voice, that Wal-Mart did something wrong,” she added.
Ms. McPadden also told the AP that her late father inspired her to persevere with the whistleblower case even as others discouraged her to give up and move on.
“My father always told me that my job was very, very important and that I had a real duty to keep my patients safe,” she told the AP. “The conditions in the pharmacy were not safe. It was really in my soul to do something about it.”
A spokesperson for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant said the jury erred on the facts and would ask the judge to set the verdict aside or reduce the damages awarded.