WASHINGTON — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to pay $90,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The settlement stems from a lawsuit the EEOC filed against Wal-Mart in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2014, alleging the retail giant violated federal discrimination law after it fired an “intellectually disabled” employee working at one of its stores in Rockford, Ill.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, William Clark, who has had disabilities since childhood, began working for Wal-Mart in 1994. As a workplace accommodation, the EEOC said Clark needed a written list of daily tasks. The EEOC alleged that Wal-Mart provided Clark with a list of tasks for years, but “at some point the company decided to stop providing Clark the accommodation needed.”
Wal-Mart subsequently terminated Clark for “supposed performance issues,” the EEOC said.
“Walmart does not condone or tolerate discrimination of any type and our company has thousands of associates who regularly perform their jobs with reasonable accommodations which we have provided,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said. “Mr. Clark never requested an accommodation. His repeated instances of improperly handling food product led to his termination under our progressive discipline policy. While we deny that discrimination in any way played a part in Mr. Clark’s termination, we are glad we resolved the matter.”
The EEOC called into question Clark’s termination, stating the “purported failure to perform certain job duties” was due to Wal-Mart “no longer providing Clark an accommodation.”
The agency said the Wal-Mart’s alleged actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations that enable them to perform their job duties.
Wal-Mart settled the suit as part of a consent decree signed by U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard on Aug. 10, the agency said.
The EEOC said the two-year decree stipulates additional, non-monetary relief to “improve the Wal-Mart workplace.”
“Under the decree, Wal-Mart will train employees on disability discrimination and requests for reasonable accommodations under the ADA,” the EEOC said. “Wal-Mart will also monitor requests for accommodation and complaints of disability discrimination and report those to the EEOC.”
The Wal-Mart spokesman said the company “will undertake additional ADA training at the individual store where Mr. Clark worked.”
“The ADA provides the same standard of protection to employees with intellectual disabilities and to workers with physical disabilities,” said Julianne Bowman, EEOC’s district director in Chicago. “Employers must provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations if they are necessary to enable the employee to perform his or her essential job duties. Here, a simple written list would have provided Mr. Clark with the accommodation he needed, and he wouldn’t have been terminated.”
“Wal-Mart failed Mr. Clark, who had worked for the company for 18 years,” claimed John Hendrickson, regional attorney at the EEOC’s Chicago office. “Rather than provide a simple, effective and inexpensive accommodation in the form of a written task list, Wal-Mart fired Mr. Clark when he allegedly failed to perform his job duties. Both the failure to provide an accommodation and Mr. Clark’s firing violated the ADA, and we are glad that with today’s settlement, Mr. Clark will receive monetary recompense from Wal-Mart.”