Press Release 04-17-2008

WAL-MART TO PAY $300,000 TO REJECTED JOB APPLICANT WITH DISABILITY

Retail Giant Refused to Hire Man With Cerebral Palsy, Federal Agency Charged

     

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Wal-Mart  Stores, Inc. will pay $300,000 to a Hardin, Mo., man to settle a disability  discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity  Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

   

In its suit, the EEOC alleged that Wal-Mart refused to  hire Steve Bradley, who has cerebral palsy and uses crutches or a wheelchair  for mobility, when he applied for employment at its Richmond, Mo.,  store in 2001. At the time, the retail  giant was preparing to open a new 24-hour Supercenter and was conducting mass  hiring. Bradley applied for any  available job, but during his interview he was questioned about his ability to  work using his wheelchair and was told he was “best suited” for a greeter  position. Ultimately, the company  refused to hire him. The EEOC’s suit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No.  04-cv-0076 (W.D. Mo)) alleged that Wal-Mart violated Title I of the Americans  with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it refused to hire Bradley.

   

In a  proposed consent decree, which will require court approval, Wal-Mart agreed to  pay $300,000 to Bradley, provide ADA training to  managers at its Richmond  store, notify job applicants about the decree and inform several Kansas  City-area job service agencies that that the company seeks to employ qualified  individuals with disabilities. If  approved by the court, the EEOC will monitor the company’s compliance with the  decree for two years.

   

The settlement followed a February 2007 decision by  the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores,  Inc., No.06-1583 [8th  Cir.]) that reversed a district court ruling dismissing the case. Wal-Mart had claimed that Bradley  would pose a safety risk to himself or customers if he worked at the store  using a wheelchair or crutches. In addition to finding that the EEOC  presented sufficient evidence for the case to go to trial, the appeals court  also held, in an important ruling interpreting the ADA, that an employer bears the burden of  proof if it claims that a disabled employee or applicant poses a “direct  threat” to the health or safety of himself or others. After the appellate decision, the case was  set to go to trial on March 31 of this year.

   

“We are pleased  that after four years of litigation, Wal-Mart finally decided to resolve this  matter,” said Jean P. Kamp, acting regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis  District Office. “This case sends an  important message to employers that they cannot allow stereotypes or  assumptions about disabled people to interfere with those people’s right to  work in jobs for which they are qualified.”

   

“Working at Wal-Mart was a dream for Steve Bradley,  and one that should have been attainable for him,” said Andrea G. Baran, the  EEOC’s senior trial attorney who handled the case. “Mr. Bradley saw Wal-Mart’s ads on television  showing disabled employees, and he thought it would be a great place to  work. Unfortunately, Wal-Mart didn’t  train its managers to see that an applicant’s ability, not his disability, is  what matters. We’re very hopeful that  this settlement signals Wal-Mart’s strengthened commitment to employing people  with disabilities.”

   

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws  prohibiting employment discrimination based on disability, race, color, gender  (including sexual harassment and preg­nancy), religion, national origin, age,  and retaliation. Further information  about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.