Wal-Mart Settles EEOC Lawsuit for $50,000

DALLAS — Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. will pay $50,000 in back pay and damages in settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC had charged that a Carlsbad, N.M., Walmart store unlawfully fired a part-time sales clerk because of her cerebral palsy.

he EEOC had charged in its lawsuit, Case No. 2:11-CV-00834, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, that Wal-Mart fired Marcia Arney rather than attempting to return her to her job following a medical leave related to her cerebral palsy. When Arney, a 22-year Wal-Mart employee, showed the store manager a note from her doctor requesting an accommodation involving periodic breaks off her feet, he refused to return her to her job, and instead demanded that she obtain a medical release with no restrictions. The EEOC alleges that the medical restriction could have easily been accommodated by the giant retailer. In fact, had the employer inquired further, it would have learned that her need for accommodation was temporary.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the consent decree settling the suit, Wal-Mart will conduct annual live ADA training of management officials at its Carlsbad store. It will also post a notice on its agreement with the EEOC so that employees are aware of procedures for reporting disability discrimination. The company has committed to not requiring disabled workers to produce a full release from their doctor upon returning from a medical leave. Further, the company will engage in an interactive process with disabled employees to find a reasonable accommodation to assist them in performing their jobs. Future charges and lawsuits alleging disability discrimination will be reported to the EEOC for the duration of the decree, as well as requests by employees for accommodation of a disability.

“Federal regulations explaining amendments to the ADA made it clear that many impairments, cerebral palsy among them, do not require a lengthy analysis to determine whether or not they are 'substantially limiting,' which is the standard for coverage,” said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “Employers who used to argue otherwise should get up to speed on the clarifications Congress made to the ADA to ensure that most people with disabilities will be covered."

Janet V. Elizondo, director for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, added, “We are hopeful that our work in this case can generally serve to educate the employer community in southern New Mexico that the Dallas District stands ready to address discrimination issues at the furthest reaches of its jurisdiction.”