Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. agreed to pay $50,000 in back pay and damages to settle a lawsuit filed by the EEOC, alleging that the company committed disability discrimination against a part-time employee with cerebral palsy in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
The EEOC alleged that Wal-Mart fired the employee after it refused to allow her to return to work following medical leave because she could not return to work “without restrictions.” The employee allegedly brought to the store manager a doctor’s note requesting an accommodation in the form of periodic breaks so that she could be off her feet.
In the lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that the store failed to engage in the required interactive process, and, had it done so, Wal-Mart would have discovered that the employee’s need for an accommodation was temporary. The EEOC also alleged that the company could have easily granted the accommodation request, rather than requiring the employee to return to work with no restrictions.
The parties were unable to settle the matter through conciliation prior to the EEOC filing suit.
Under the terms of the settlement, Wal-Mart must conduct live, annual ADA training of management employees in the New Mexico store where the incident occurred and post a readily visible notice of the EEOC settlement. Wal-Mart must also report any disability discrimination lawsuits or charges and disability accommodation requests by employees to the EEOC.
The lawsuit is reflective of the increased scrutiny that the EEOC has placed on policies that require employees to return from medical leaves with “full releases.”