Walmart Altering Disability Employment Policy
Under a settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the country’s largest private employer will change a policy affecting workers with disabilities nationwide.
Walmart says that in cases where employees with disabilities need to be reassigned, the company will offer them open positions at multiple nearby stores rather than just positions at the location where they already work.
The new policy is the result of a lawsuit brought by the EEOC on behalf of Veronica Resendez, a longtime Walmart employee in Augusta, Maine.
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Resendez developed a disability that kept her from continuing in her job as a sales associate. Walmart determined that she could work as a fitting room associate or people greeter, but there were no available positions in either category at the location where she worked. There were openings at two nearby stores, but under Walmart’s existing policy to only search the store of employment, Resendez was not transferred and stopped working for the retailer.
In its suit, the EEOC alleged that Walmart violated the Americans with Disabilities Act which requires that employees with disabilities be provided reasonable accommodation, which can include reassignment to a vacant position.
Walmart will pay $80,000 to Resendez as part of the settlement agreement. In addition, the company will change its reassignment policy to ensure that all hourly retail associates eligible for reassignment under the ADA can request a search for positions in their current store as well as up to five other stores or throughout their entire market.
“Federal law requires employers to reassign employees with a disability to vacant positions as the reasonable accommodation of last resort,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “We are very pleased that this lawsuit, which arose from a single employee’s complaint, resulted in the nationwide change we sought, and we applaud Walmart for making that change.”
The new policy will take effect in all stores by February, said Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman. He indicated that the company was already testing a program to allow for multi-store searches “well before” the settlement.
“We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Hargrove said. “We’ve been a top employer for people with disabilities for many years and have thousands of associates who perform their jobs with reasonable accommodation, including job reassignment.”
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