What’s up with Wal-Mart?
Despite a 10-year-old settlement involving disability discrimination with the EEOC, the agency has filed another lawsuit charging Wal-Mart Stores Inc. with forcing an employee with a heart condition to park his car some distance from the store, then terminating him when he filed a complaint. If you recall, the EEOC reached a $6.5 million settlement with Wal-Mart in December 2001. That consent decree was in effect for four years, resolved 13 different cases of disability discrimination against the company throughout the U.S., and required Wal-Mart to hire an ADA coordinator.
David Gallo worked at the Wal-Mart store in Placerville, Calif., beginning in June 2003 and, during his six years at the store, rose from being an overnight stocker to the manager of the store's Tire & Lube Express bay. Mr. Gallo has atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that causes shortness of breath and difficulty walking. In March 2008, a new store manager barred Mr. Gallo from parking in the accessible parking spaces and in any space close to the front of the store, despite the company's knowledge of his condition. Mr. Gallo filed a charge with the EEOC over the Bentonville, Ark.-based Company’s failure to accommodate his disability in September 2008 and was fired eight months later, “allegedly for an error made by a subordinate, even though the subordinate and the inspector who had reviewed this work were not discharged.”
The company contends it has accommodated Mr. Gallo's disability for several years in different roles at the store and that he was terminated from his position due to his performance as a manager of its Tire Lube Express department.
Could Wal-Mart could have easily accommodated Mr. Gallo, despite his repeated requests? Did Wal-Mart not take this seriously until the employee filed his EEOC charge? Did Wal-Mart compound its mistake by firing him in retaliation? Of course we do not know the answers to these questions so it will be an interesting case to watch.
Wal-Mart says it regularly provides reasonable accommodations to associates with disabilities all over the country and has been recognized as a top employer for people with disabilities. We certainly commend Wal-Mart for that but the question relative to this particular case, is has the company consistently trained all its store managers to ensure they understand their obligations to accommodate people with disabilities?
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