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Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart seems to provide frequent training moments as we learn how their various charges of alleged disability discrimination are handled by the EEOC. This time, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico ruled in favor of a former Carlsbad Wal-Mart employee with a disability was unlawfully fired.

According to an EEOC press release, a disability discrimination lawsuit was filed after a Wal-Mart employee was fired because she returned to work with a doctor's excuse that recommended she be given breaks after returning from medical leave for surgery involving treatment for cerebral palsy. This employee will receive a $50,000 in back pay and Wal-Mart will pay other damages in a settlement agreement with Wal-Mart.

Her manager at the time demanded that she go back to her doctor and get a medical release with no restrictions. According to the EEOC, which filed the lawsuit on the employee’s behalf, the former manager could have handled the situation without firing her.

Wal-Mart said the case was an unfortunate and isolated incident whereby a decision was made by a former local store manager that was not fully in compliance with company policies.

Wal-Mart claims it has many employees with disabilities in its stores around the country who regularly perform their jobs with or without reasonable accommodation. In fact, according to a company spokesperson, Wal-Mart has been recognized as one of the Top 50 Employers for people with disabilities by Careers and the disABLED magazine. If Wal-Mart conducted training, how did this supervisor put the company at risk?

So, what does this tell us? Ongoing training for all employees is vitally important to make sure this doesn’t happen in your company. Every settlement agreement, whether it’s disability discrimination in the workplace or marketplace, includes such a requirement. Companies that have provided disability discrimination training often do it as a “one-time” event. Employees come and go. Regulations sometimes change. Wal-Mart, according to the EEOC press release is now required to a) conduct annual live ADA training of management officials at its Carlsbad store; b) post a notice on its agreement with the EEOC so that employees are aware of procedures for reporting disability discrimination; c) not require workers with disabilities to produce a full release from their doctor upon returning from a medical leave; and d) engage in an interactive process with employees with disabilities to find a reasonable accommodation to assist them in performing their jobs. In addition, future charges and lawsuits alleging disability discrimination will be reported to the EEOC for the duration of the decree, as well as requests by employees for accommodation of a disability.

The impact of the ADA is broad and training is relevant to all personnel. General information is useful to all employees, informing them of their rights and obligations under the ADA. Selected topics, such as specific accommodations for persons with particular disabilities, may be best presented by coupling the information of an instructor familiar with the ADA with that of a professional with expertise on accommodation for such persons. Other topics that may not directly relate to the requirements of the ADA, but may support the intent of the ADA are training in such topics as: attitudes toward persons with a disability; disability as a facet of diversity; effective disability management; prevention of disability through workplace safety; and effective recruitment of persons with disabilities.

Springboard provides such training and is available to help you design a training program customized to your needs. Results of a SHRM/Cornell survey indicate that top management commitment to training and nondiscrimination is the number one way to effectively reduce barriers in the employment and advancement of people with disabilities. It is important that any dissemination initiative on disability nondiscrimination and diversity be seen as a companywide commitment for a real impact to occur.

Shelley

This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.