As Goliath moved closer to attack him,
David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag
and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead.
The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell [dead] facedown on the ground.
After three years of litigation followed by
a two-week trial, 45-year-old Cynthia Haddad, a pharmacist and a mother of
four children, walked out of the Berkshire County Superior Court in
Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with her husband and a jury verdict in her favor
for nearly $2 million against her former employer, Wal-Mart.2 This
corporation is recognized as the largest retailer in the world.3
Given the behemoth size of the defendant and the guile that one lone
pharmacist could muster, this was truly a David versus Goliath story in the
Just before the jury returned, Ms. Haddad
told reporters, "My story was told and I did the fight. My life would go on
after that."4 After the verdict was rendered, one of her
attorneys told the press, "It sends a message that you cannot treat people
poorly because of who they are."5 Another one of her
attorneys, who is a pharmacist and a lawyer, stated, "The message in our case
is you can't take a professional pharmacist and fire her for reasons that
aren't enforced for male pharmacists. Their reasons were just laughable."
6 Ms. Haddad stated that the verdict "vindicated" her. "It started to
bring life back into me … Someone listened."7
Ms Haddad worked as a pharmacist for
Wal-Mart for 10 years prior to the start of this litigation. When she was
offered the job in 1993, she began to realize a lifelong ambition that
developed in the eighth grade when she had a crush on a pharmacist in her
hometown.8 In 2003, she was offered a "temporary" position as
manager of the pharmacy in the Pittsfield Wal-Mart. For a variety of reasons,
including an almost constant change in district manager personnel, this
intended short-term position lasted over 13 months. Pharmacy managers are paid
at least $1 more per hour than staff pharmacists and receive bonuses. Ms.
Haddad received no pay increase or bonus. After nine months of performing all,
or at least the vast majority, of the same tasks as any other pharmacy
manager, she complained to her supervisors but to no avail. Eventually, she
was given a check representing nine weeks of bonus pay but nothing for the
managerial pay differential.9 Due to her continued and persistent
complaints, she was given another bonus check in April 2004. Five days later,
she was fired.
Wal-Mart contended that she was terminated
because she left the pharmacy unattended by a pharmacist and during her
absence, a pharmacy technician logged onto the computer using the pharmacist's
access code and filled a forged prescription for a controlled substance. There
was also evidence that during this time, a prescription for an acid reflux
medication was dispensed when no pharmacist was in the pharmacy. The only
problem with these excuses is that the incidents happened 18 months before she
was let go. The math here is quite interesting: the controlled substance drugs
went missing in 2002, at least five months before she was promoted to
"temporary" pharmacy manager. Does it make any sense to promote somebody that
the pharmacy district managers knew had allowed controlled substance drugs to
be diverted without a valid prescription? From the jury's collective minds,
apparently not. In reality, they believed that this was just a pretext
advanced to shield Wal-Mart from accusations that it illegally discriminated
against this pharmacist due to her gender and in retaliation for her
complaints of unfair treatment, compared to male pharmacy managers.
Wal-Mart took a risky position by trying to
link her dismissal to the missing controlled substances. This opened the door
for the pharmacist to claim defamation. A Board of Pharmacy investigation into
the incident did not result in any charges against the pharmacist or the
corporation. Ironically, it was this pharmacist who initially alerted the
federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that there were controlled
substance inventory discrepancies.10 Again, no action was taken by
the DEA against either the pharmacist or the pharmacy. At about the same time
as these occurrences, Ms. Haddad also witnessed and reported to Wal-Mart
misconduct by a male pharmacist. No action was taken against that pharmacist.
11 During the trial, a member of the Board of Pharmacy testified that
Massachusetts law does not prohibit a pharmacist from leaving the pharmacy for
a short period with only a pharmacy technician present.12
Ms. Haddad's attorneys also introduced
evidence that Wal-Mart's investigation into her employment activities was
deeply flawed and that its policies and procedures are, at best, only
selectively enforced when the company thinks it would be to its own advantage.
13 The evidence also showed that similarly situated male pharmacy
managers were never disciplined for far more egregious violation of company
policies. In fact, virtually no male pharmacists in the same district had ever
been terminated or even disciplined for the reasons that Wal-Mart claimed she
was fired over. Both the former president of the Massachusetts Board of
Pharmacy and a district manager for Wal-Mart stated at the time of the trial
that they did not know of any case where a pharmacist was fired for failing to
secure the pharmacy. Oddly enough, every performance review that was conducted
over the 10-year span of her employment showed that she was an exemplary
pharmacist. The corporation could not explain why an employee with Ms.
Haddad's record was terminated as a matter of its claimed "sound business
decision" for failing to secure the pharmacy one time.14
In a novel, if not unprecedented, move, the
attorneys for Ms. Haddad called on an attorney with expertise in human
resources and corporate policies as an expert witness.15 Wal-Mart
vigorously opposed this gambit. However, after an hour-long hearing conducted
by the judge (outside of the jury), he ruled that the expert witness was
qualified to testify on issues regarding policies and procedures. She
testified that Wal-Mart does not adhere to its own personnel policies in any
It was stated that the judge presided over
the trial with patience and fairness, reading copious pleadings and generating
proposed jury instructions that were well researched and reasoned.16
It may be difficult for Wal-Mart to prevail if it decides to appeal.
At the end of the trial, a spokesman from
Wal-Mart said the company has antidiscrimination policies and procedures and
encourages women to take on leadership roles.17 That claim is also
being put to a test in a sexual discrimination lawsuit filed in California in
2001. The class action suit covers nearly all women employed by Wal-Mart after
1998. According to an attorney for the plaintiffs, the number of women
represented in that case is nearly 2 million.18
The verdict against Wal-Mart in the Haddad
case included nearly $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in
punitive damages. Compensatory damages included $95,000 in back pay, about
$733,000 in front pay (money she would have earned if not wrongfully
terminated), $125,000 for emotional distress, and over $17,000 for medical
expenses. The jury did not make any reward for the defamation claim. No
question that $2 million for one individual is a huge victory, but it is
barely a drop in the bucket for a company that generated more than $355
billion in revenues for fiscal 2006.19
Immediately after the jury rendered its
verdict, Wal-Mart announced it would appeal the decision within the allotted
30 days. While the economics might weigh against Wal-Mart following through
with an appeal, the company might keep the litigation alive to prevent others
from bringing similar claims and establishing a negative precedent.20
However, at the time of this publication, there were no public documents
available showing whether Wal-Mart followed through with the threatened
1. 1 Samuel 17, verses 48 and 49
(NIV). BibleGateway Web site. Available at:
www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+?Samuel+17. Accessed September 14, 2007.
2. MoreLaw Web site. Available at:
/case.asp?n=05274&s=MA%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20&d=33337. Accessed September 14,
3. Fired worker wins Wal-Mart case.
BBC News. June 27, 2007. Available at:
news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6222976.stm. Accessed September 14, 2007.
4. Keller E. One case against
Wal-Mart. Business Week, June 28, 2007. Available at:
Accessed September 14, 2007.
5. David Belfort, Corrigan, Bennett &
Belfort, P.C., Cambridge, Massachusetts and Richard Fradette, Beliveau,
Fradette, Doyle & Gallant, Manchester, New Hampshire. Available at:
news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6222976.stm. Accessed September 14, 2007. Mr.
Fradette is also a pharmacist-attorney.
6. Reed K. Wal-Mart told to pay $2m
to fired pharmacist. Boston Globe. June 21, 2007. Available at:
Accessed September 14, 2007.
7. See note 4.
8. See note 4.
9. See note 6.
10. Paiste D. NH lawyer wins against
Wal-Mart. New Hampshire Union Leader. June 21, 2007:A1. Available at:
September 14, 2007.
11. See note 6.
12. See note 4.
13. See note 2.
15. HR expert helps plaintiff win in
Wal-Mart discrimination case. Available at: xprolegal.com/aug07/aug6.php.
Accessed July 23, 2007.
17. See note 6.
19. See note 4.
20. Fired Wal-Mart pharmacist wins
landmark gender discrimination case. Available at: totallawyers.com/legal-
articles-fired-wal-mart-pharmacist.asp. Accessed July 30, 2007.
To comment on this article, contact