A former pharmacist at Wal-Mart Stores who claimed she was fired after asking to be paid the same as her male colleagues was awarded $2 million in damages ($1 million in compensatory and $1 million in punitive). 

In upholding the award, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court explained: “There was evidence that Wal-Mart paid the plaintiff substantially less than less-experienced male pharmacists, refused to pay the plaintiff the pharmacy manager salary differential that it paid to male pharmacists, and terminated the plaintiff purportedly for a single policy violation but did not terminate male pharmacists for that or for more serious infractions involving violations of State and Federal law,” Justice Judith Cowin wrote for the court in the unanimous, 7-0 ruling.

Wal-Mart claimed that the pharmacist was fired because she left the pharmacy unattended and allowed a technician to use her computer security code to issue prescriptions during her absence.  Considered alone, these would appear to be valid, non-discriminatory reasons for termination; however, the jury found that Wal-Mart’s stated motive for Haddad’s firing was a pretext and that Wal-Mart acted with a “discriminatory animus.”

This case highlights the importance of consistency – consistency in compensation and consistency in the enforcement of company policies.  An annual HR audit should look at both of these issues and recommend any necessary changes.