Hope Mills Store Refused to Allow Employee with Hand-Wrist Condition to Work and Then Fired Her Because of Her Disability, Federal Agency Charges
RALEIGH, N.C. – Wal-Mart Stores East, LP violated federal law when it failed to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee and then fired her after she made an internal ethics complaint of disability discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in April 2019 an employee working for Walmart’s Hope Mills, North Carolina store as a warehouse unloader experienced the onset of severe pain due to a neurological disability that affected her right hand and wrist. Her supervisor told her to apply for medical leave through the company’s third-party administrator to avoid accruing points under the attendance policy. The employee applied for intermittent leave as a reasonable accommodation for her disability but the accommodation was denied.
Walmart then told the employee that she could not return to work unless she could provide a medical release saying that she could work without any restrictions, which was not possible due to the employee’s disability. Frustrated by Walmart’s continued refusal to allow her to return to work, the employee made a report to the company’s Global Ethics Office in late June 2019. The company fired her nine days later.
Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects individuals with disabilities from workplace discrimination and requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities. Retaliating against an employee for complaining about discrimination also violates federal law. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, Civil Action No.: 5:22-cv-00252) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.
The EEOC seeks monetary relief for the employee, including back pay, and compensatory and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief against the company to end any ongoing discrimination and to prevent such unlawful conduct in the future.
“Individuals with disabilities have a right to work,” said Melinda C. Dugas, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District. “Employer policies requiring employees to show that they are 100% healed or can otherwise work without any restrictions before returning from medical leave violates public policy and runs afoul of the ADA. Additionally, the statute prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who seek an accommodation for a disability.”
The EEOC’s Charlotte District is charged with enforcing federal employment anti-discrimination laws in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.