Walmart is slapped with 2 lawsuits in a week accusing the retailer of unfairly firing workers with chronic illnesses
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Walmart over the dismissals of two workers at separate stores in North Carolina.
The lawsuits say Walmart didn't accommodate the former employees, one who has Crohn's disease, and other, epilepsy.
The suits accuse Walmart of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The US government is accusing Walmart of ignoring "reasonable accommodation" requests from two former North Carolina store workers with chronic medical conditions and firing them instead.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Walmart twice this week in U.S. District Court after the former employees, Adrian Tucker, who has Crohn's disease; and Calvin Hagan, who has epilepsy, filed complaints alleging that the retailer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Crohn's disease is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in individuals' digestive tract. It can lead to immense pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and many other symptoms. Epilepsy is a disorder in which individuals suffer from repeated seizures.
Tucker began working in the deli department of a Walmart in Statesville, North Carolina, in February 2014, according to the first lawsuit, lifting boxes of chicken that weighed up to 50 pounds among other tasks. She began to experience symptoms related to Crohn's disease in September 2016, the lawsuit said.
In early November 2016, Tucker went to the emergency room due to a "medical episode" and had to miss work, according to the lawsuit. The suit alleges that Walmart did not excuse that absence, despite a doctor's note being provided. And after a few more episodes, Tucker requested in February 2017 that Walmart allow her to take a leave of absence, to work part-time, and/or to be transferred to a position that was closer to the bathroom. Per the lawsuit, Walmart ignored those requests as well as subsequent ones, and did not excuse absences for further medical episodes.
Tucker was fired in April 2017, the lawsuit says, for accruing more than nine "unauthorized absence-related occurrence points" during the preceding six-month period, violating Walmart's attendance and punctuality policy.
According to the second lawsuit, Hagan, who had been a general merchandise support manager at a Walmart in Charlotte, North Carolina, arrived late to work eight times and missed work twice between January 1, 2018, and March 31, 2018, due to epileptic episodes.
Months earlier, Hagan had asked Walmart to grant him intermittent leave and disability-related excused absences, but, according to the lawsuit, the company denied his accommodation requests, and in April 2018 demoted him to a position as a deli associate. The lawsuit alleges that Walmart fired him on August 3, 2018, saying that he had accrued more than nine unauthorized absence-related occurrence points in the preceding six months.
Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove told Insider in a statement that "we have been a top employer for those with disabilities for years and have thousands of associates who perform their jobs with reasonable accommodation, including applying for and receiving appropriate leave."
"We don't tolerate discrimination of any kind and take allegations like this seriously," Hargrove said of the lawsuits. "We are reviewing the complaint and will respond in court as appropriate once we are served."
What does the ADA require employers to do?
Passed by the US Congress in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA for short, is a civil rights law that protects individuals with disabilities from being discriminated against and allows them to seek accommodations to help them in their workplace.
Per the non-profit Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, Crohn's disease does count as a disability under the ADA. So too does epilepsy, according to the non-profit Epilepsy Foundation.
The ADA states that "individuals with a disability may inform their employer that an accommodation is necessary at any point during their employment or as a job applicant while seeking employment," according to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation's website. "Employers with 15 or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities to help them perform their essential functions."
In both lawsuits, the EEOC is seeking unspecified damages for the plaintiffs, back pay, and a permanent injunction preventing Walmart "from discriminating against individuals because of their disabilities, including termination based on disability and failure to provide reasonable accommodation."
Are you a Walmart worker who feels like you've been discriminated against by the company? Contact reporter Ben Tobin on email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on encrypted messaging app at +1 703-498-9171.
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