Wal-Mart to Pay $275,000 Settlement over Firing a Worker with Cancer-Related Disability

In its lawsuit, EEOC charged that the company denied a 12-year employee a reasonable accommodation after he had cancer surgery, which left him with weakness in his right shoulder.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay $275,000 to settle a disability lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced recently.

In its lawsuit, EEOC charged that the company denied a 12-year employee of its East Tennessee distribution center #6039 in Midway, Tenn., a reasonable accommodation after he had cancer surgery, which left him with weakness in his right shoulder. EEOC said Wal-Mart also fired him in retaliation for complaining about its refusal to accommodate him. The employee had successfully worked as a forklift driver after the surgery. He requested that the company not require him to cover a 20-minute break in the shipping department because it would require manual lifting. Wal-Mart denied his request for an accommodation and discharged him, claiming he could not perform the essential functions of his job.

Denial of a reasonable accommodation and retaliation against disabled individuals violates Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended by the Americans With Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). The EEOC filed suit on Oct.10, 2010, No. 2:10-cv-00222, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Greenville Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. This case was among the agency’s first lawsuits filed under the ADAAA.

“There is a solid body of federal law that clearly obligates employers to provide an employee with a reasonable accommodation unless it poses an undue hardship,” said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office. “The EEOC remains committed to vigorously enforcing the ADA and the ADAAA.”

In addition to the monetary relief, the 18-month consent decree settling the suit enjoins Wal-Mart’s distribution center #6039 from further failing to provide reasonable accommodation, absent undue hardship, or following proper procedures for handling such requests per the ADA and ADAAA. In addition, the decree requires that Wal-Mart provide anti-disability discrimination training to its management staff; maintain records of any accommodation requests and furnish them to EEOC; and post a notice to employees about the lawsuit that includes EEOC’s contact information. Wal-Mart has revised and amended its accommodation policy, which it distributed to all employees, to address accommodation issues.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., is a retail store chain with more than 8,576 retail units under 55 different banners in 15 countries.

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