ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced a disability discrimination lawsuit against global retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. for refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a deaf employee at Wal-Mart Store #2258 in Alexandria, Va.
According to the EEOC litigation, Wal-Mart violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing provide an accommodation to former employee Stephanie Holmes, from around November 2002 until December 2006. Holmes, who is deaf and communicates primarily using American Sign Language (ASL), worked as a stocker. The EEOC charged that in order to perform her job, Holmes needed an ASL interpreter and/or comprehensive written notes at various times throughout her employment to effectively communicate with her managers, co-workers and, occasionally, with customers. However, Wal-Mart refused to provide the accommodation, despite Holmes’ verbal and written requests in accordance with the ADA.
The EEOC further alleges that because of Wal-Mart's failure to provide Holmes with a reasonable accommodation, she was denied equal access to the benefits and privileges of employment that other Wal-Mart employees enjoyed. For example, the suit alleges that Holmes was routinely denied access to information provided to other employees by Wal-Mart because she could not hear and/or understand the information, including information disseminated at staff meetings.
The ADA makes it unlawful for an employer to refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation unless doing so would pose an undue hardship on the employer. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Civil Action No.1:10-cv-00075), after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court. The suit seeks compensatory damages and punitive damages for Holmes, as well as injunctive and other non-monetary relief.
“Employers must recognize that they have an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Lynette A. Barnes of the agency’s Charlotte District, which includes Virginia. “It’s unfortunate that twenty years after the enactment of the ADA, some employers still haven’t gotten the message that disability discrimination is unlawful and will not be tolerated. This suit should remind employers that the EEOC will not waiver in enforcing the ADA.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.