Mentally-challenged employee wins $450K discrimination suit

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on October 1, 2013 at 10:53 PM

PLANO, Texas — A mentally-challenged Plano man is claiming victory after a jury awarded him almost a half-million dollars in a discrimination and harassment suit against the Kroger supermarket chain.

Karl Tipple, 25, claimed a store manager made his life miserable because of his disabilities.

Tipple worked at Kroger for five years. He transferred to a Plano store at Custer and Parker roads. He said after just one week, the store manager started harassing him.

"I was getting verbal abuse, yelled at, and called names," Tipple said.

After one year of this alleged abuse, Tipple filed a lawsuit against Kroger, claiming he was harassed because of his mental disabilities, and was promptly fired after he filed it.

According to the lawsuit, the manager often called Tipple a “retarded idiot" and said he was "too stupid to live."

"I was horrified,” said Kevin Tipple, Karl’s father. “It was very frustrating as a parent to hear your son talked to that way. It was also a very helpless feeling, because I couldn't do anything about it to fix it."

The lawsuit claims the manager harassed the mentally-challenged man on a regular basis, often on the sales floor. It also claims the manager assigned Tipple tasks to do alone that were normally done by several people.

A federal jury heard four days of evidence. They deliberated for more than four hours before deciding Kroger should pay Tipple $450,000 in damages.

"It's caused irreparable harm to him,” Tipple's father said. “He's not the same child he was.; he's a grown adult at 25, but he had gained a lot of self-confidence on the job... most of it is lost now."

Kroger's regional officials in Dallas told News 8 they're "disappointed in the outcome of the trial, and are evaluating all their options, including an appeal."

Karl Tipple hopes the court victory will send a message to employers and other people with disabilities: Just because you're different doesn't mean you don't deserve to be treated fairly.

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