Walmart ADA Settlement With EEOC Includes Nationwide Change to Reassignment Policies

Some lawsuits redound well beyond the immediate parties, to have even national implications. This is one such.

Walmart  Inc. will pay $80,000 and implement nationwide changes to its disability reassignment policy to settle a disability discrimination  lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the  federal agency announced Friday.

According to the EEOC’s  lawsuit, Walmart  violated federal law by  failing to reassign a long- term employee at its Augusta, Maine location  to vacant positions in its  Waterville or Thomaston, Maine  locations after she became disabled.  The lawsuit alleged that Veronica Resendez, who had worked for Walmart  since 1999, developed a disability that, according  to Walmart,  prevented her from continuing to work in a sales associate position in Augusta. Walmart determined that the only positions that  could accommodate her disability  were fitting room associate and people greeter. While there were  no such positions vacant  in Augusta, there were two fitting room associate positions open in Waterville and one  in Thomaston. Walmart’s policy, however, was to search for open positions only in the store where  the employee had been working.  Because of this, Walmart did not transfer Ms. Resendez to the positions in  Waterville or Thomaston, which  she would have happily accepted. As a result, Ms. Resendez never worked for Walmart  again.

The  Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits employers from discriminating based  on disability and imposes a  requirement that employees with disabilities be provided a reasonable    accommodation, absent  undue hardship on the employer. The ADA states  that one of these accommodations is reassignment to a vacant position.

The  EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00170-JDL) in U.S. District  Court for the District  of Maine in Bangor after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through  its conciliation process.

As  part of the settlement, which was approved  by the Court yesterday, Walmart will change its policy so associates with a disability that are eligible  for job reassignment under the ADA as a reasonable accommodation can request that Walmart search at up to five stores beyond  an associate’s then-current store location  (“home store”) or in the home store’s entire market.  The revised procedures will be applied to all hourly field associates working in Walmart  retail stores in the United States.

Walmart is also enjoined from failing  to offer to reassign  a qualified individual with a disability to a vacant position. Finally, Ms. Resendez will receive  payment of $80,000.

“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.”

EEOC New York District  Director Kevin Berry added,  “Employers cannot refuse to offer a reasonable  accommodation required by law absent undue hardship. This case demonstrates that looking beyond the home store  for a vacant position  is not an undue hardship.”

The  EEOC’s New York District  Office oversees New York,  Northern New Jersey,  Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode  Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

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