CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A jury has awarded more than $31 million in damages to a former Wal-Mart pharmacist in New Hampshire who claimed she was wrongly fired after reporting safety concerns about co-workers dispensing prescriptions.
Maureen McPadden was a 13-year employee who reported her concerns to management while working in Wal-Mart's Seabrook pharmacy. She was fired in 2012 after losing her pharmacy key.
The jury awarded most of the money Thursday based on gender discrimination claims, but also found Wal-Mart's conduct was retaliation for her complaints about safety issues and/or privacy violations.
McPadden, 51, said she was confident she would prevail even before the jury announced its verdicts after about three hours of deliberations.
"I honestly feel the jurors listened intently," she 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."
Randy Hargrove, director of media relations nationally the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company, said Wal-Mart will ask the court to set aside the verdict or reduce the damages.
"We do not tolerate discrimination of any type and neither that nor any concerns Ms. McPadden raised about her store's pharmacy played a role in her dismissal," Hargrove said.
McPadden testified that she was disciplined twice in the year before her termination because pharmacy technicians did not file required reports on two occasions.
Her lawyers, Richard Fradette and Lauren Irwin, said a male pharmacist at a Wal-Mart in Plaistow, New Hampshire, who lost a pharmacy key within the year after McPadden was terminated, was disciplined, but not fired.
McPadden said her mother and sister at times urged her to give up and move on in the three years leading up to trial, but said she was inspired by her late father to persevere.
"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 said. "The conditions in the pharmacy were not safe. It was really in my soul to do something about it."
This story has been corrected to show that McPadden worked for Wal-Mart for 13 years, not 18 years.