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PRESS RELEASE
1-7-00

WAL-MART SETTLES EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION CLAIM OF TWO APPLICANTS WHO ARE DEAF

Also Agrees to Make Corporate Wide Changes in Hiring and Training

PHOENIX -- The U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Arizona Center for Disability Law today announced a settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Under the terms of a consent decree, approved by Judge William Browning, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. agrees to pay $132,500 to Jeremy Fass and William Darnell, two applicants who are deaf. Fass and Darnell, who applied for positions at a Tucson Wal- Mart store, will also be offered jobs under the terms of the consent decree. Wal-Mart also agrees to make corporate-wide changes in the hiring and training of new employees who are deaf or hearing impaired.

EEOC Chairwoman, Ida L. Castro commented about the national significance of this case: "With this settlement Wal-Mart is opening doors to people with disabilities throughout the country. These changes will have a significant positive impact for applicants and employees who are deaf and apply to any of the Wal-Mart stores throughout the nation."

The lawsuit was brought in 1997 under the Americans with Disabilities Act by the EEOC and the Arizona Center for Disability Law. William Darnell, one of the charging parties in the case noted, "Deaf people can do anything in the workplace that hearing people can do, except hear."

Some of the major provisions of the consent decree that apply directly to Mr. Fass and Mr. Darnell are:

  • Each will be paid $ 66,250 plus his share of profit sharing and reimbursement for out-of- pocket medical expenses that would have been covered by health insurance benefits had he been hired by Wal-Mart in 1995;
  • Wal-Mart will offer both young men jobs as a stocker or unloader.
  • Wal-Mart will provide a sign language interpreter for them during their training and orientation, at any meetings to discuss evaluations of their performance; and at scheduled meetings;
  • Wal-Mart will also provide other reasonable accommodations based on their deafness, including giving them vibrating pagers for communication at the store, installing a telecommunication device for the deaf (known as a TTY or TDD), and revamping their safety and evacuation procedures to ensure that deaf employees are safely evacuated during an emergency, and if not present in the store where they are hired, install visual fire alarms.
  • Mr. Fass and Mr. Darnell will be awarded a corporate service date of September 1, 1995 and this date will be used for decisions that are made based on the length of an employee's service with the company.
  • Wal-Mart will pay the Arizona Center for Disability Law $57,500 in attorney's fees and litigation expenses incurred in representing Jeremy Fass and William Darnell.

"I feel good because I took a stand about what happened to me and by doing that I also helped other people who are deaf, " stated Jeremy Fass.

His lawyer, Rose Daly-Rooney agrees, "Today it seems the success of a lawsuit or a settlement is measured by how staggering the amount of money obtained. The Center measures the success by the significance of the changes that will lead to improved employment opportunities for people who have disabilities, and in this case the changes that Wal-Mart agreed to make under the terms of this consent decree in how it conducts its hiring and trains new employees who are deaf and hearing impaired are staggering."

EEOC attorney David Lopez adds: "Messrs. Fass and Darnell deserve special recognition for their courage and determination. Their efforts demonstrate the indispensable role of individual action in shattering stereotypes in the workplace."

EEOC's Regional Attorney in Phoenix, Richard R. Trujillo stated, "Not only will Jeremy Fass and William Darnell benefit from this consent decree, but other deaf and hearing impaired Wal- Mart applicants and employees living in any town or city where there is a Wal-Mart will gain by the provisions related to training and orientation."

A major portion of the training Wal-Mart offers to its new employees is an orientation and training program that is developed at the corporate office and administered nationwide through computer-based learning and videotapes. Under the terms of the consent decree, Wal-Mart will do the following:

  • encode with close or open captioning all training videotapes used by Wal-Mart to train employees in any entry level position;
  • develop an alternative format for a sign language version of the information in the computer- based learning modules;
  • provide a corporate-wide electronic or written notice to all of its stores to announce the availability of the alternative format videotapes and computer-based learning modules for use by the deaf and hearing impaired; and
  • modify its existing corporate policy on reasonable accommodations to include a procedure for an applicant or employee to follow if she or he wishes to request an accommodation and the procedure for approval of the accommodation request.

Selected Wal-Mart stores in Tucson, Phoenix and Green Valley will also take some additional steps under this consent decree. These stores will conduct meetings with representatives from agencies that assist with job placement of people who are deaf and hearing impaired to explain the hiring procedures and discuss job openings; make arrangements with sign language interpreter referral services to ensure sign language interpreters are available when needed; and conduct a training on the non-discrimination provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and communication techniques for employees who are deaf.

The Arizona Center for Disability Law is a non profit public interest law firm with offices in Phoenix and Tucson and statewide toll-free telephone access. Funded primarily through grants from the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Education, the Center is dedicated to ensuring that individuals with disabilities are free from discrimination and have access to jobs, housing, education, and health care.

EEOC enforces Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by the private sector as well as state and local government and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Equal Pay Act. The Phoenix District Office's jurisdiction includes Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.