January 24, 2015
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EEOC Sues Wal-Mart for Disability Discrimination - Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Retailer Rescinded Accommodation, Then Fired Intellectually Disabled Employee, Federal Agency Charges
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit here yesterday against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., alleging that the giant retailer fired an intellectually disabled employee at a Rockford Walmart store after it rescinded his workplace accommodation.
"What our investigation indicated," said John Rowe, the EEOC district director in Chicago, who managed the federal agency's pre-suit administrative investigation, "is that Wal-Mart rescinded a long-standing practice of giving written job assignments to the employee, William Clark. That accommodation had been the key to permitting Clark to successfully perform his job during an 18 year career at Wal-Mart and to his meeting the company's performance expectations. We determined that shortly after rescinding the accommodation, Wal-Mart began disciplining Mr. Clark for supposed performance issues, and that ultimately lead to his termination."
The Wal-Mart where Clark was working at the time of his termination is located at 7219 Walton in Rockford, on the south side of the East State Street commercial corridor and between Interstate 90 and South Perryville Road.
The EEOC brought the suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination in employment, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Civil Action No. 14-cv-50145) was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division on July 1, 2014. It has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard.
John Hendrickson, regional attorney of the EEOC's Chicago District Office, said, "The EEOC's position in this case is that Wal-Mart just took away -- with no good reason -- an effective workplace accommodation of an intellectually disabled employee. That reversal fatally compromised the employee's ability to continue doing a job he had done so well for many, many years, and ended up with him being fired."
Hendrickson added, "It's hard to fathom what drove Wal-Mart to this course of action, but the EEOC response will definitely not be a mystery. We intend to show that the company's action was a particularly senseless violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act -- an especially hurtful injustice -- that Mr. Clark is entitled to full make whole relief and to punitive damages, and that the public interest requires strong injunctive measures to correct Wal-Mart's practices."
In March of this year, Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. agreed to pay $363,419 to settle an EEOC sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit. According to that suit, Wal-Mart violated federal law by allowing a co-worker to sexually harass an intellectually disabled employee at an Akron, Ohio Walmart store.
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.