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EEOC Sues Wal-Mart for Disability Discrimination

December 16, 2011
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Despite a 10-year-old settlement involving disability discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency has filed another lawsuit charging Wal-Mart Stores Inc. with forcing an employee with a heart condition to park his car some distance from the store, then terminating him when he filed a complaint.

In its Dec. 15 filing in federal district court in Sacramento, California, the EEOC said that according to its investigation, David Gallo worked at the Walmart store in Placerville, California, beginning in June 2003 and, during his six years at the store, rose from being an overnight stocker to the manager of the store's Tire & Lube Express bay.

Gallo has atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that causes shortness of breath and difficulty walking, said the EEOC. In March 2008, a new store manager barred Gallo from parking in the handicap parking spaces and in any space close to the front of the store, despite the company's knowledge of his condition, the EEOC said.

Gallo filed a charge with the EEOC over the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company's failure to accommodate his disability in September 2008 and was fired eight months later, "allegedly for an error made by a subordinate, even though the subordinate and the inspector who had reviewed this work were not discharged," the EEOC said in a statement.

EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado said in its statement, "Wal-Mart could have easily accommodated Gallo, but despite his repeated requests, nothing happened until he filed his EEOC charge. Wal-Mart compounded its mistake by firing him in retaliation."

EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said in the statement, "In December 2001, the EEOC reached a $6.5 million settlement with Wal-Mart. That consent decree was in effect for four years, resolved 13 different cases of disability discrimination against the company throughout the U.S., and required Wal-Mart to hire an (Americans with Disabilities Act) coordinator. Nevertheless, it appears that some store managers still do not understand their obligations to accommodate people with disabilities."

A Wal-Mart spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

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

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