The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Walmart, alleging that the retail giant violated federal law by discriminating against a longtime employee with a disability. According to the EEOC’s complaint, Walmart failed to provide reasonable accommodations to a deli associate who was suffering from symptoms related to Crohn’s disease.
The associate requested intermittent leave or excused disability-related absences and requested to be transferred to a position closer to a bathroom. Although Walmart excused a few of the associate’s disability-related absences, it did not excuse others, including several absences due to medical appointments and a hospitalization. The associate, who had worked for Walmart since February of 2014, was fired in April 2017 for incurring unexcused absences exceeding the number of absences allowed under company policy, even though she had provided doctor’s notes.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects individuals from disability discrimination in the workplace and which, absent undue hardship, requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to allow disabled employees to perform the essential functions of the job. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Statesville Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.
The EEOC seeks monetary relief for the former employee, including back pay, and compensatory and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief against the company to end any ongoing discrimination and to prevent such unlawful conduct in the future.
In a statement, the EEOC’s regional attorney Melinda C. Dugas said, “The Americans with Disabilities Act was created to protect employees like this deli associate, Here you have a long-term employee who—at the onset of a debilitating health condition—needs some flexibility from her employer while she seeks medical treatment and works toward managing the condition.”