Wal-Mart Pays $300,000 for Refusing to Hire Man with Cerebral Palsy

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay $300,000 to a Hardin, Mo., man to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In its suit, the EEOC alleged that retail giant refused to hire Steve Bradley, who has cerebral palsy and uses crutches or a wheelchair for mobility, when he applied for employment at its Richmond, Mo., store in 2001.

At the time, the Wal-Mart was preparing to open a new 24-hour Supercenter and was conducting mass hiring. Bradley applied for any available job, but during his interview he was questioned about his ability to work using his wheelchair and was told he was "best suited" for a greeter position, according to EEOC. Ultimately, the company refused to hire him. The commission's suit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 04-cv-0076) alleged that Wal-Mart violated Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act when it refused to hire the man.

In a proposed consent decree, which will require court approval, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $300,000 to Bradley, provide ADA training to managers at its Richmond store, notify job applicants about the decree, and inform several Kansas City-area job service agencies that that the company seeks to employ qualified individuals with disabilities. If approved by the court, the EEOC will monitor the company's compliance with the decree for two years.

The settlement followed a February 2007 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No.06-1583) that reversed a district court ruling dismissing the case. Wal-Mart had claimed that Bradley would pose a safety risk to himself or customers if he worked at the store using a wheelchair or crutches. In addition to finding that the EEOC presented sufficient evidence for the case to go to trial, the appeals court also held, in an important ruling interpreting the ADA, that an employer bears the burden of proof if it claims that a disabled employee or applicant poses a "direct threat" to the health or safety of himself or others. After the appellate decision, the case was set to go to trial on March 31 of this year."

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