Walmart kept disabled worker on unpaid leave for 3 years, suit says. He’s owed $70,000

Walmart refused to let a disabled worker use an electric store cart — forcing him to go on unpaid leave in South Carolina, according to a federal lawsuit.

The retail giant kept Luis Quiñones, an amputee who was born without half of his right leg, on unpaid leave for three years, the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says.

Walmart initially allowed Quiñones to use an electric cart to help him perform certain job duties at the store in Aiken, about a 55-mile drive southwest from Columbia, from December 2019 through July 2020, according to the lawsuit.

Around seven months later, Walmart “revoked” Quiñones’ use of the cart and told him motorized store carts were only for customers, the EEOC said in a March 7 news release.

Meanwhile, his co-workers could use the carts if they were temporarily injured, according to the EEOC.

Now, Walmart has agreed to pay $70,000 to settle the disability discrimination lawsuit, the agency announced.

The company will pay Quiñones $45,102.08 for lost wages and $24,897.92 in compensatory damages, according to a consent decree filed March 7.

In a statement to McClatchy News on March 8, Walmart said, “We are glad that we have resolved this matter with the EEOC and Mr. Quinones.”

“We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind and provide reasonable accommodations to thousands of associates,” the company added.

Walmart places employee on ‘indefinite unpaid leave’

Quiñones was no longer allowed to use an electric store cart shortly after a new HR representative began working at the Walmart in Aiken, according to the lawsuit, which accused the company of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The HR representative told Quiñones that to continue using the cart, he needed to make an accommodation request through Walmart’s Accommodation Service Center, the lawsuit says.

On July 15, 2020, Walmart told Quiñones he was no longer qualified to perform his sales associate job duties, according to the lawsuit.

That day, the HR representative told him he couldn’t use the cart and suggested he could work as a self checkout host instead, the lawsuit says.

However, he couldn’t do this job because of his disability, according to the EEOC.

“Walmart failed to offer an alternative reasonable accommodation that would have allowed Quiñones to continue working, and instead Walmart placed him on indefinite unpaid leave,” according to the lawsuit, the EEOC said.

Walmart to offer man new job

Walmart agreed to offer Quiñones a job at a different company store in Aiken, the consent decree shows.

“The EEOC will aggressively pursue all appropriate avenues of make-whole relief for victims of discrimination,” Nicholas Wolfmeyer, an EEOC trial attorney, said in a statement. “This often includes advocating for an employee to be reinstated, which will be done in this case.”

As part of the two-year consent decree, Walmart must provide reasonable accommodations to disabled workers related to walking and standing at the other Aiken store, according to the EEOC.

The company will also train the store’s employees each year, will post a notice at the location and will provide the EEOC with compliance reports, the agency said.

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