A consent decree agreement entered Thursday in federal court resolves a disability discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) last year on behalf of former employee Charles Goods, and discrimination claims filed by Goods.
The EEOC took up the Greeneville resident’s case against the retailing giant, claiming in a lawsuit filed in October 2010 that Wal-Mart violated federal law when it fired longtime employee Goods because of a cancer-related disability, and retaliated against him for complaining about the discrimination.
The orders in the decree signed by U.S. District Court Judge J. Ronnie Greer include a provision that Wal-Mart pay $275,000 in full settlement of the claims, including $110,000 in back pay with interest and $165,000 for compensatory damages to Goods.
Back wages are for the years 2009 and 2010.
Wal-Mart was also ordered to conduct anti-disability discrimination training for management and take steps to prevent “further failing to provide reasonable accommodation” to employees with disabilities.
EEOC filed the lawsuit under provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the subsequent ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
Goods was hired by Walmart in January 1997 and worked as a forklift operator at the Distribution Center for more than 12 years. In 2005, according to the EEOC civil complaint, he underwent surgery for thyroid cancer.
The surgery severed several nerves and left Goods with limited feeling or strength in his right arm. He remained “a qualified individual with a disability,” the complaint said.
In November 2008, Goods’ supervisor asked him to relieve an employee in the shipping department for a 20-minute break. Goods replied that he could not perform the work because he couldn’t do the manual lifting required there.
He was asked to complete a request for reasonable accommodation, court documents said.
The EEOC complaint demanding a jury trial said that Goods requested reasonable accommodation to continue working in the section of the Distribution Center where he operated a fork lift, adding that he was employed successfully for 12 years, including the three years following his cancer surgery.
Wal-Mart claimed an essential function of Goods’ job “was manual lifting,” the EEOC complaint stated. Goods’ doctor advised Wal-Mart that he could not perform manual lifting.
“In practice, [Wal-Mart] did not require Goods to do any significant manual lifting in order to successfully perform his job,” said the complaint, which claimed the company denied Goods’ requests for reasonable accommodation, asserting that he could not perform essential job functions.
“[Wal-Mart] did not enter into the interactive process to accommodate Mr. Goods’ disability,” the complaint stated, instead placing him on leave “and subsequently discharging him because of his disability.”
Goods was placed on a 90-day leave on Dec. 18, 2008, in response to his request for an accommodation, and denied an appeal before he was advised that “it was his responsibility to find another position that did not have a written requirement of manual lifting.”
He filed a charge of discrimination on May 18, 2009, and was terminated by Wal-Mart on July 16, 2009, “in retaliation for his continuing to request a reasonable accommodation for his disability,” the EEOC complaint stated.
If you believe you have suffered discrimination or job termination due to a disability, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation.