PHOENIX - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has asked Judge William D. Browning of the Federal District Court in Tucson, Arizona, to hold Wal-Mart Stores, Inc, the nation's largest retailer, in contempt of court and to sanction the company because it failed to comply with the terms of a January 2000 Consent Decree settling an EEOC lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). A hearing on the motion is scheduled for May 29.
In its contempt motion, EEOC alleges that Wal-Mart failed to comply with several provisions of a court-approved Consent Decree resolving an ADA lawsuit filed by the agency's Phoenix District Office in 1998. The suit charged Wal-Mart with refusing to hire two Arizonans, Jeremy Fass and William Darnell, because of their disability, deafness. The contempt motion states, among other things, that Wal-Mart is in violation of the Decree because of its failure to create alternative training materials for use nationwide by hearing-impaired employees. The materials include a sign-language version of its computer-based learning modules used to train entry-level employees.
In addition, EEOC contends, and Wal-Mart admits, that the company failed to provide court ordered training on the ADA to its management employees. The training was designed to effectuate the ADA's protections against discrimination for hearing impaired individuals in central and southern Arizona. EEOC also maintains that Wal-Mart refused to allow the agency and the Arizona Center for Disability Law, which represented Fass and Darnell, to visit its stores to ensure it was in compliance with the Consent Decree.
"It is extremely unusual for EEOC to have to ask a court to hold an employer in contempt, " said C. Emanuel Smith, acting regional attorney for EEOC's Phoenix District Office, which has jurisdiction for Arizona. "Both EEOC and the Arizona Center for Disability Law have made every effort to obtain Wal-Mart's voluntary compliance with the Consent Decree, but to no avail. We are amazed that a company the size of Wal-Mart failed to provide court ordered training."
Smith added: "Because Wal-Mart has steadfastly refused to satisfy its court-ordered obligations, we remain extremely concerned for hearing impaired individuals in Arizona and throughout the country who seek employment with Wal-Mart or are currently employed."
Since July 1992, when Title I of the ADA became effective, EEOC has obtained approximately $325 million under the ADA on behalf of more than 20,000 individuals through its enforcement efforts - - including settlements, conciliations, mediation, and litigation. In addition, EEOC has obtained non-monetary benefits for over 10,000 individuals, including reasonable accommodation, policy changes, training and education, job referrals, union membership, and the posting of EEO notices at job sites.
Title I of the ADA prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, discharge, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms and conditions of employment.
In addition to the ADA, EEOC also enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, or national origin; the Equal Pay Act; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; and the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Further information about the EEOC is available on its Web site at www.eeoc.gov.