As part of an agreement with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the country’s largest private employer will change a policy that affects workers with disabilities nationwide.
Walmart says that in cases where employees with disabilities need to be recruited, the company offers them vacancies in several nearby stores, rather than just positions in the place where they already work.
The new policy is the result of a lawsuit filed by EEOC on behalf of Veronica Resendez, a long time Walmart employee in Augusta, Maine.
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Resendez developed a disability that prevented her from continuing her job as a sales rep. Walmart decided she could work as a locker room attendant or greeter, but the place where she worked had no vacancies in either category. There were openings in two nearby stores, but under Walmart’s existing policy of only browsing the store, Resendez was not moved and stopped working for the retailer.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that Walmart violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employees with disabilities to be given reasonable accommodation, which can include reassignment to a vacant position.
Walmart is paying Resendez $ 80,000 under the settlement agreement. In addition, the company will change its reassignment policy to ensure that all hourly retail employees eligible for reassignment under the ADA request a search for positions in their current store, as well as up to five other stores, or their entire market can.
“Federal law requires employers to move workers with disabilities to vacancies as a reasonable last resort,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the New York District Office for the EEOC. “We are delighted that this lawsuit, which arose from an individual employee’s complaint, has resulted in the nationwide change we are seeking, and we applaud Walmart for making that change.”
The new policy will go into effect in all stores by February, said Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman. He said the company was already testing a program to enable multiple branch searches “long before” the deal.
“We do not tolerate any form of discrimination,” said Hargrove. “We have been a top employer for people with disabilities for many years and have thousands of employees doing their jobs with reasonable accommodation, including reassigning jobs.”