The Americans with Disabilities Act celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, but several large employers, which should be well aware of the law, continue to violate the Act. The EEOC recently filed suit against Wal-Mart for violating the ADA when it terminated a long-time employee who requested an accommodation for his disability. The Plaintiff, a cancer survivor with limited function in his right arm due to cancer related surgery, worked as a forklift operator for 12 years. He performed his job well and received outstanding performance evaluations (including an outstanding evaluation on the last day he worked).
In November 2008, Wal-Mart asked the employee to relieve another worker in the shipping department during a 20 minute break. He was unable to replace the employee because that individual’s work required lifting, which the Plaintiff could not perform due to his shoulder disability. Rather than accommodate him (i.e., allow him to remain in the same position he performed successfully for 12 years), Wal-Mart removed him from his forklift position and placed him on unpaid leave, declaring that he could not perform the essential functions of his job. He complained, filed a discrimination charge, and Wal-Mart fired him a few months later.
Wal-Mart’s alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employers to: accommodate employees with disabilities, refrain from discriminating against employees because of their disabilities, and refrain from retaliating against employees who request accommodations or file complaints about potential violations of the Act. Wal-Mart may be ordered to reinstate employment, issue back and front wages, pay interest, costs, and attorney fees, and potentially pay as much as $300,000 in punitive and compensatory damages if the EEOC succeeds in its lawsuit.
Attorney McLeod is an associate attorney of Alan C. Olson, S.C. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact him at: [email protected]