EEOC Sues Walmart for Disability Discrimination

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Decatur Store Refused to Accommodate Deaf Applicant During Hiring Process Federal Agency Charges

DECATUR, Ill. – Walmart violated federal law by failing to provide an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for an applicant and failing to hire the qualified applicant because he is deaf, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed yesterday.

According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, the EEOC’s pre-suit administrative investigation revealed that after the applicant applied for a position at Walmart Store #2728 in Decatur, Ill., through Walmart’s website, he was contacted by Walmart for an interview. The applicant disclosed he was deaf and requested an ASL interpreter for the interview. This request put an end to the application process – even after the applicant followed up with Walmart.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits workplace discrimination against applicants on the basis of disability.

The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case, EEOC v. Walmart Stores, Inc., and Walmart Stores East, LP, Civil Action No. 21-cv-02080, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois and was assigned to U.S. District Judge Colin Stirling Bruce. The government’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorneys Jeanne Szromba and Kelly Bunch and supervised by EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Deborah Hamilton.

“The ADA clearly requires employers to provide disabled and able-bodied applicants alike the same opportunities to compete for a job, which includes providing reasonable accommodations such as sign language interpreters for deaf applicants at interviews,” said Gregory Gochanour, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago. “Otherwise an employer could exclude an applicant from consideration even where they are qualified for the job. That is exactly what happened here. Walmart excluded a qualified applicant from the process, denying him both the opportunity to interview and the job itself. The EEOC will hold employers accountable when they close to the door to qualified applicants because of their disabilities.”

Bowman added, “The EEOC will continue to vigorously investigate and enforce the law to make sure employers maintain an accessible hiring process that does not exclude qualified applicants who are deaf.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of 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.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

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.

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