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Wal-Mart Settles Employee's EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit for $50,000

The EEOC said Wal-Mart fired Marcia Arney, a part-time clerk, from her position in its Carlsbad, New Mexico, store rather than trying to return her to her job after a medical leave related to her cerebral palsy.

August 22, 2012
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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and one of its units has reached a $50,000 settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in which the retailer was charged with failing to accommodate a 22-year employee who suffers from cerebral palsy.

The EEOC said Wal-Mart fired Marcia Arney, a part-time clerk, from her position in its Carlsbad, New Mexico, store rather than trying to return her to her job after a medical leave related to her cerebral palsy. Arney had shown the store manager a note from her doctor requesting an accommodation involving periodic breaks off her feet, but the manager refused to return her to her job and instead demanded that she obtain a medical release with no restrictions, according to the EEOC's statement.

"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," said the agency, which charged Wal-Mart with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

In addition to $50,000 in back pay and damages, provisions of the settlement with Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart and its Wal-Mart Stores East L.P. unit include that Wal-Mart conduct annual live ADA training of management officials at its Carlsbad store.

Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC's Dallas district office, said in a statement, "Federal regulations explaining amendments to the (Americans with Disabilities Act) 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. Employers who used to argue otherwise should get up to speed on the clarifications Congress made to the (Americans with Disabilities Act) to ensure that most people with disabilities will be covered."

A Wal-Mart spokesman responded that this case involved a now-former local store manager who "was not fully in compliance with company policies."

The spokesman said, "This was an unfortunate, isolated incident in our Carlsbad store and in no way reflects the manner in which we conduct business at our stores or treat our associates. Wal-Mart does not condone or tolerate discrimination of any type. We take it seriously any time allegations or questions are raised about our (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance."

Judy Greenwald writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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