U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Carlsbad Store Refuses to Accommodate Employee With Cerebral Palsy After More Than 20 Years of Service, Federal Agency Charges
DALLAS — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has filed suit against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. for refusing to allow a long-term employee with cerebral palsy to return to work after a medical leave because of restrictions imposed by her doctor that would have been temporary.
The EEOC charged in its suit, Case No. 2:11-CV-00834 in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, that a Carlsbad, N.M., Walmart terminated sales clerk Marcia Arney, who was attempting to return to her job following a medical leave for surgery. The surgery had been necessary due to her disability, cerebral palsy. When Arney, who had worked at the store as a sales clerk for 22 years, showed the store manager a note from her doctor stating that she needed to take periodic breaks, he refused to return her to her job, and instead required that she produce a medical release with no restrictions. The EEOC alleges that the medical restriction could have been accommodated by the giant retailer.
“This skilled employee had decades of experience with customers who recognized and greeted her. She had a loyal customer base that also benefited the store. Not allowing her to return to her job or even discuss her temporary restrictions meant the loss of a loyal employee, and violated the federal law against disability discrimination,” said EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Toby Wosk Costas.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The EEOC seeks injunctive relief, including the formulation of policies to prevent and correct disability discrimination. The suit also seeks damages for Ms. Arney and punitive damages against Wal-Mart.
“Employers need to make sure that they understand and comply with the simplified coverage definitions of the ADA Amendments Act, which has been in effect now for over two years, said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the Dallas District Office of the EEOC. “Prior skewed interpretations of the law have been corrected by Congress to ensure that persons like Ms. Arney, who suffer from debilitating conditions, are given opportunities to continue their employment through reasonable accommodations.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.