A Walmart Supercenter in Farmingdale violated federal law by failing to continue the longstanding accommodations of an employee with a disability after a change in store management and fired her for resulting infractions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on September 18.
According to the lawsuit, on January 2020, new managers at the Farmingdale Supercenter revoked longstanding accommodations that had allowed the employee to successfully perform her job as a customer availability process team associate since 2017. The employee, who has obvious hearing, speech and cognitive impairments, was forced to receive her daily assignments during masked group “huddle” meetings she could not understand and was not permitted to perform her routine tasks, even though previous managers had effectively accommodated her disabilities for years.
New managers fired the employee for performance issues that occurred because of the managers’ failure to reasonably accommodate her disabilities, the EEOC said. After the employee’s termination, human resources personnel at the store refused to accept documentation of the employee’s disabilities or reconsider the discharge.
According to the EEOC, such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with obvious disabilities even if the employee does not request an accommodation through formal channels. The EEOC filed suit in the Eastern District of New York, EEOC v. Walmart Stores East, L.P., Civil Action No. 1:23-cv-06902, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process.
The EEOC seeks monetary relief for the former employee, including back pay, and compensatory and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief against Walmart designed to remedy and prevent future disability discrimination.
“Federal law requires employers to reasonably accommodate qualified employees with obvious disabilities and to continue providing such accommodations when new managers come on board,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “The ADA protects the rights of individuals with disabilities to work without fear of arbitrarily losing their accommodations and being forced from their jobs.”
“The EEOC is committed to enforcing federal laws prohibiting disability discrimination in the workforce,” Timothy Riera, director of the New York District Office, added. “Accommodating qualified employees with disabilities is not a choice or an option — it’s the law.”