Disability discrimination against a Wal-Mart employee could have been avoided had management simply agreed to continue to accommodate the worker with a written list of daily tasks. Instead, court records show, managers chose to fire the intellectually disabled worker – even though he’d been employed by the company for 18 years.
Now, the store has agreed to settle the case by paying $90,000 to its former employee. The settlement was reached with the assistance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which helped the worker filed the case.
According to the lawsuit, EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., it was alleged the worker had previously been able to meet the expectations of the company with the help of the store’s long-standing practice of writing out his daily assignments for him. It had been key to allowing him to successfully perform his duties.
The lawsuit, filed in 2014, asserted a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which bars employment disability discrimination. The EEOC at first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement agreement, but the retail giant initially refused. At the time of the filing, an attorney for the EEOC called, “an especially hurtful injustice.”
For years, the company had written out his daily list of tasks. But at some point, without any real explanation, management at the company decided to stop doing this. But when the worker was no longer able to complete his daily duties as a result, the store fired him for failure to perform certain job duties.
As part of the pre-litigation settlement that was ultimately reached, the store will pay $90,000 to plaintiff. The deal was recently signed by U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard. The settlement also contains a provision that requires the store over the next two years to provide non-monetary relief that will improve the overall workplace. This will involve training employees on what disability discrimination is, what reasonable requests are under federal ADA law and how to ask for them. The store will also be responsible to keep track of any requests for accommodation, as well as any complaints of disability discrimination. Those must be reported by the store to the EEOC under the agreement.
EEOC officials say this case is an example of how a simple, inexpensive accommodation was effective for 18 years in allowing a man with intellectual disabilities to successfully do his job. But this failure of the company to provide this accommodation was a violation of federal law.
The news release on the settlement did not indicate whether the worker would return to work for Wal-Mart or whether he had already secured other employment.
All workers grappling with disability should know they are entitled to reasonable accommodations by their employer. The term “reasonable” is sometimes subject to interpretation, which is why you should consult with an experienced disability discrimination attorney if you believe you’ve been treated unfairly. Much of it may depend on the industry, the exact job skills needed and the size of the workplace. What may be a reasonable and feasible accommodation in one position may be impossible in another. The worker in question needs to be able to complete the essential functions of the job, and the cost and availability of the accommodation would need to be taken into account.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Wal-Mart to pay fired Rockford employee $90K to settle suit, Aug. 12, 2016, By Kirsten Zambo, Rockford Star
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Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Settled by Lowe’s for $8.6M, June 12, 2016, Orange County Disability Discrimination Lawyer Blog