Rockford Store Unlawfully Fired Long-Term Employee Because of His Intellectual Disability, Federal Agency Charged
ROCKFORD, Ill. - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay a former, long-term employee $90,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
EEOC's lawsuit charged Wal-Mart with violating federal discrimination law when the giant retailer fired an intellectually disabled employee at one of its Wal-Mart stores in Rockford, Ill. At the time of his termination, the employee, William Clark, worked at a Wal-Mart store located at 7219 Walton St. in Rockford.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Clark, who has intellectual disabilities that were first detected during childhood, began working for Wal-Mart in 1994. As a workplace accommodation for his intellectual disabilities, Clark needed a written list of daily tasks. EEOC alleged that Wal-Mart had provided Clark with a daily list as an accommodation for years, but at some point the company decided to stop providing Clark the accommodation he needed. Wal-Mart alleged that it terminated Clark because he failed to perform certain job duties. EEOC charged that Clark's purported failure to perform certain job duties was due to Wal-Mart no longer providing Clark an accommodation.
Wal-Mart's alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations that enable them to perform their job duties. EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; Civil Action No. 14-cv-50145) on July 1, 2014, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Wal-Mart will pay $90,000 in monetary relief to Clark as part of a consent decree settling the suit, signed by U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard on Aug. 10. The two-year decree also provides additional, non-monetary relief intended to improve the Wal-Mart workplace. Under the decree, Wal-Mart will train employees on disability discrimination and requests for reasonable accommodations under the ADA. Wal-Mart will also monitor requests for accommodation and complaints of disability discrimination and report those to the EEOC.
"The ADA provides the same standard of protection to employees with intellectual disabilities and to workers with physical disabilities," said Julianne Bowman, EEOC's district director in Chicago. "Employers must provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations if they are necessary to enable the employee to perform his or her essential job duties. Here, a simple written list would have provided Mr. Clark with the accommodation he needed, and he wouldn't have been terminated."
John Hendrickson, regional attorney of the EEOC's Chicago District Office, added, "Wal-Mart failed Mr. Clark, who had worked for the company for 18 years. Rather than provide a simple, effective, and inexpensive accommodation in the form of a written task list, Wal-Mart fired Mr. Clark when he allegedly failed to perform his job duties. Both the failure to provide an accommodation and Mr. Clark's firing violated the ADA, and we are glad that with today's settlement, Mr. Clark will receive monetary recompense from Wal-Mart, and the company will be required to educate its workforce on employees' rights, and on its own obligations, under the law."
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.