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:
"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:
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.