Walmart unlawfully fired new workers when their disabilities caused them to fail a test at the end of a training program, the EEOC claimed this week in a lawsuit.
In a suit filed Monday, the U.S. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission claims Walmart's Pathways Training Program, created in 2015, included a test at the end called the Pathways Graduation Assessment.
"By January 2017, Walmart required its newly hired hourly associates at its Supercenters and Neighborhood Market Stores across the U.S. to complete the program," the EEOC's regional office said in a news release Wednesday.
"Walmart terminated employees with disabilities across the U.S., including two in Arkansas, who failed the test after three attempts even though the employees satisfactorily performed their jobs," the agency said.
Walmart failed to provide reasonable accommodation for those taking the test, which was not related to the employees' job duties or performance, the EEOC said.
In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division, the EEOC claimed the Bentonville-based retailer's actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EEOC said. An attempt at a pre-litigation settlement failed, the agency said.
Glenda Scott, who is deaf, worked at a Supercenter in North Little Rock. Jaclyn Walker, who was diagnosed as a child with intellectual and speech/language disabilities, worked at a Neighborhood Market in Fayetteville.
According to the complaint filed with the court, Walmart "failed to conduct an individualized assessment to determine whether the individuals required an accommodation during the test-taking process."
On behalf of Scott, Walker and "a class of other unidentified individuals with disabilities," the suit asks for back pay; compensatory and punitive damages; compensation for lost benefits; and an injunction against any discriminatory practices.
"Employees with disabilities face far too many obstacles in life, and the workplace should not be one of those obstacles," said Edmond Sims, acting district director of the EEOC's Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi.
"Employees with disabilities who are successfully performing their jobs should be commended, not terminated," Sims said.
Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said that the company "has been a top employer for those with disabilities for years."
"We created our Pathways program with the needs of all associates in mind, and this included advising them of accommodation options through up to seven audial and visual pop-up notifications as they took the training and assessment," he said.
Hargrove said the program was discontinued several years ago and the company plans to defend itself.
The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Walmart Inc., Walmart Stores Arkansas LLC.