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Jury: Plano Kroger illegally terminated man with special needs

A federal jury has just awarded more than $450,000 in damages to a man with learning disabilities who was harassed, demoted and ultimately fired because of disability discrimination at a Kroger store in Plano and by Kroger executives.

The 25-year-old man had graduated from high school through a special education program because of multiple learning disabilities, but those disabilities don't mean he lacks intelligent. Indeed, he is considered high-functioning. After high school, he worked at Kroger for five years and had earned consistently high evaluations for his work.

In Nov. 2010, however, he was transferred to a new store in Plano, where he was to be an assistant bakery manager. According to his lawsuit, the manager of that store demoted him to a part-time position almost immediately, despite his history of good work.

Then, for nearly a year, the manager routinely subjected him to verbal abuse and harassment, repeatedly calling him names like “retarded idiot” and saying he was “too stupid to live.”

Toward the end of 2011, the man decided to report the problem to Kroger management. Instead of working to resolve the illegal harassment, upper management at Kroger refused even to investigate his claims and instead fired him, according to his attorney.

The young man filed a federal lawsuit for disability discrimination and wrongful termination, and the jury just came in. They awarded him nearly $500,000.

Representatives from Kroger have largely declined to comment on the case, but a spokesperson told one reporter that the company is considering its options, including an appeal.

One of the main reasons we have employment laws in Texas and the U.S. is to protect people who would otherwise be easy to exploit. No one deserves to be told they are valueless, particularly when it’s untrue. Discriminatory wrongful termination is illegal not simply because is cruel, but also because it deprives good employees of what their hard work should rightfully earn them.

Source: Disability Scoop, “Man With Special Needs Awarded $450K In Discrimination Suit,” Shaun Heasley, Oct. 2, 2013

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