PHOENIX - A federal court in Tucson held Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in contempt and imposed sanctions on the company on June 13, 2001, for failure to comply with a court order resolving claims that Wal-Mart refused to hire Jeremy Fass and William Darnell because they are deaf, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Today, the court approved an amended consent decree resolving the contempt action negotiated with the U.S. Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL), which is acting on behalf of Darnell and Fass.
"Everyone is familiar with Wal-Mart's compelling national television advertisements featuring people with disabilities as valued employees," said EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez. "I am very pleased that this amended consent decree will more closely align Wal-Mart's image with its employment practices."
Expanding on Wal-Mart's commitment, Rose Daly-Rooney, Fass and Darnell's attorney from the ACDL, said, "This total package will benefit present and future applicants and employees with disabilities of Wal-Mart in Arizona and the rest of the country. Not least of all, Wal-Mart itself will benefit from more knowledge and tools to tap into a rich resource for personnel people with disabilities."
In the court decree, Wal-Mart agrees to prepare, film, and air a television advertisement that features Darnell and Fass describing their claim that Wal-Mart failed to hire them because they are deaf. The ad will run for two weeks on the three national broadcasting companies (ABC, CBS and NBC) in Phoenix and Tucson, at least once a day during morning or evening prime time.
"A TV advertisement was part of the sanction originally imposed by the court. The advertisement that will be aired is an effort by the parties to educate the public about discrimination against people with disabilities, and in particular the barriers faced by hearing impaired applicants and employees," stated Katherine Kruse, an EEOC trial attorney who worked on the case.
Under the decree, Wal-Mart will also pay $427,500 to the ACDL to be used for state- wide legal advocacy, job development, job coaching, and sign interpreter services for persons with disabilities, as well as monitoring Wal-Mart's compliance with the Amended Consent Decree. "This money will ensure that the ACDL will be able to help more people with disabilities who experience discrimination in the workplace," said Leslie Cohen, ACDL's executive director. "It is a real opportunity for the ACDL to help make the promise of the ADA real."
According to EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill, "While Wal-Mart did not make substantial progress towards satisfying its obligations under the original court order resolving this lawsuit and therefore was ordered to pay a large fine, we are pleased that Wal-Mart has decided to move forward. With today's settlement, the parties have crafted a way to put this monetary settlement to good use - investing in the disability community and opening up new job opportunities."
In this vein, Wal-Mart will offer to rehire Darnell with improved workplace accommodations and restored benefits. Darnell had been rehired under the terms of the original order, but left because Wal-Mart failed to provide the reasonable accommodations the ADA requires for communicating with Deaf employees. In addition, Wal-Mart will hire at least five other qualified Deaf individuals at Wal-Mart stores in Arizona.
Wal-Mart is also required to make changes in its employment practices and policies to guard against future acts of discrimination. The company will make improvements to its internal procedures for providing reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities and will conduct extensive management training next month on disability discrimination in the 23 Wal- Mart stores in Tucson, Phoenix, and Green Valley. In addition, Wal-Mart will conduct semi- annual meetings with job developers who work with the disability community to discuss current and anticipated job openings. Further, within 60 days, Wal-Mart will commit to a media format for preparing its Computer-Based Learning Modules in American Sign Language (ASL).
The Arizona Center for Disability Law is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to the protection of and advocacy for people with disabilities. The ACDL's mission is to ensure people with disabilities are free from abuse, neglect and discrimination and have the services they need to maximize their independence and achieve equality. ACDL is funded through federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Education and the Social Security Administration, as well as small grants, donations and attorneys fees. For more information about the ACDL and the rights of people with disabilities, visit ACDL's Web site at www.acdl.com.
In addition to enforcing Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments, the EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on national origin, religion, sex, race, or color; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; the Equal Pay Act of 1963; sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991; and the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibit discrimination affecting people with disabilities in the federal government. For more information about the EEOC and the laws it enforces, see the agency's Web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on September 20, 2001.
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