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EEOC Sues Wal-Mart for Disability Discrimination and Retaliation

Placerville Store Denied Close Parking for Employee with Heart Condition, Federal Agency Charged

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By: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

SACRAMENTO, Calif. Dec. 15 2011. — Mega-retailer Wal-Mart violated federal law when it failed to accommodate an employee with a disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. The EEOC also charged that Wal-Mart later fired the worker because of his disability and in retaliation for asserting his civil rights.

According to the EEOC's investigation, David Gallo worked at the Walmart in Placerville, Calif., starting in June 2003. During his six years at the store, Gallo's successful performance was reflected in promotions from overnight stocker to manager of the store's tire lube express bay. Gallo has atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that causes shortness of breath and difficulty walking. In March 2008, the new store manager barred Gallo from parking in the handicap parking spaces and any spaces close to the front of the store, despite the company's knowledge that Gallo had a disability. Gallo filed a charge with the EEOC for Wal-Mart's failure to accommodate his disability in September 2008. Eight months later, he was fired allegedly for an error made by a subordinate, even though the subordinate and the inspector who had reviewed his work were not discharged.

"Letting me park closer to my job was a little thing for Wal-Mart, but would have made a big difference to me," stated Gallo. "The store manager made me move to the back of the parking lot, even after I showed him my handicap placard. I asked for a simple accommodation, and I lost my job over it."

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits treating workers unfavorably because they have a disability and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to applicants and employees with disabilities. The ADA also prohibits retaliatory actions against employees for requesting an accommodation or filing a charge with the EEOC. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 2:11-AT-01806) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, and seeks monetary damages on behalf of Gallo, training on the ADA and other steps to prevent future discrimination.

EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, "In December 2001, the EEOC reached a $6.5 million settlement with Wal-Mart. 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. Nevertheless, it appears that some store managers still do not understand their obligation to accommodate people with disabilities."

EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado commented, "Wal-Mart could have easily accommodated Mr. Gallo, but despite his repeated requests, nothing happened until he filed his EEOC charge. Wal-Mart compounded its mistake by firing him in retaliation. The EEOC will defend employees' rights to ask for an accommodation for their disabilities and to report discrimination when employers fail to respond properly to their requests. "

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

 

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