EEOC Sues Wal-Mart Stores East for Disability Discrimination

by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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Cockeysville Store Refused to Accommodate Applicant With End-Stage Renal Disease, Federal Agency Says

BALTIMORE - Wal-Mart Stores East, LP violated federal law when it refused to employ an individual with end-stage renal disease as a store associate because she needed a reasonable accommodation during the hiring process, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a federal lawsuit it announced today.  

The EEOC charges that following a successful interview, the assistant store manager at the Walmart store in Cockeysville, Md., offered Laura Jones a job as an evening sales associate, contingent on passing a urinalysis test for illegal drugs.  When Jones said that she cannot produce urine because she has end-stage renal disease, the assistant store manager told her to ask the designated drug testing company about alternate tests. 

That day, Jones went to the drug testing facility as directed and was told that while the facility did offer other drug tests, such as a mouth swab/saliva test, the employer had to order the alternate drug test.  Jones then called the assistant store manager, relayed this information and even offered to pay for an alternate test if Wal-Mart would order it.  Instead of ordering an alternative drug test as a reasonable accommodation to Jones's disability, the EEOC charges that the assistant store manager replied that she had "called the corporate office" and that Jones could not be hired if she did not pass a urinalysis test.  Jones's application was closed for failing to take a urinalysis within 24 hours.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation, including during the application and hiring process, unless it can show it would be an undue hardship.  The ADA also prohibits employers from refusing to hire individuals because of their disability.   

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-00862-JKB) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  The EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting Wal-Mart from discriminating based on disability, equitable relief that provides equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and other affirmative relief for Jones.  

EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence pointed out that this is the third lawsuit the EEOC has filed in the last year against employers who refused to provide alternative drug tests, such as a saliva test or blood test, to applicants who requested and needed that reasonable accommodation.  The other lawsuits involving this issue are EEOC v. Kmart Corporation; Sears Holdings Management Corporation; Sears Holding Corporation, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Civil Action No. 13-cv-02576) and EEOC v. Fort Worth Center of Rehabilitation, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Civil Action No. 3:13-cv-1736).  

"While an employer may require applicants to undergo a drug test, these lawsuits should send a strong message to all employers that they simply cannot have a blanket, inflexible policy or practice of requiring only a urinalysis test, regardless of the circumstances," said Lawrence.  "Paying attention to federal disability law and making a minimal effort to accommodate this applicant would have saved everyone a lot of trouble."

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. added, "Wal-Mart evidently thought Ms. Jones was qualified for the position because it made her a job offer.  When it refused to permit her to take an alternative drug screening test and revoked the job offer, the company lost the talent and services of a qualified employee as well as violating federal law."  

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.  The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) | Attorney Advertising

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