Walmart Sued For Denying Reasonable Accommodations
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is accusing Walmart of discrimination for failing to accommodate a longtime store employee with a developmental disability.
The federal agency sued this week alleging that the retail giant violated the Americans with Disabilities Act in the case of Paul Reina who worked as a cart pusher at a Beloit, Wis. location.
Reina, who has a developmental disability and is deaf and visually impaired, had worked at the store for 16 years when a new manager took over. Within a month, Reina was suspended and told to resubmit medical paperwork in order to retain his reasonable accommodations — including the assistance of a job coach — according to the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.
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Once Reina and his legal guardian provided documentation requesting the continued accommodations, the Walmart store stopped communicating and Reina was ultimately unable to return to work, the EEOC said.
The lawsuit is seeking to recoup lost earnings as well as compensatory and punitive damages for Reina. In addition, the EEOC wants a permanent injunction to prevent Walmart from failing to provide reasonable accommodations in future cases.
The EEOC said it tried unsuccessfully to resolve the matter with Walmart before filing suit.
“It is the employer’s responsibility to make sure that all managers are trained on the laws against disability discrimination. Effectively denying a request or a reasonable accommodation to someone with a 16-year track record of successful work is illegal discrimination,” said Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District.
In a statement, Walmart said it is “sensitive to this situation” and remains open to a continuing dialogue in order to find an “amicable resolution that would support Mr. Reina.”
“One of our core beliefs is respect for all individuals, and we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” the company said.
In a separate matter, the EEOC sued Walmart earlier this year for firing a 15-year employee with Down syndrome at another Wisconsin store.