Handicapped employees must often overcome significant hurdles in the workplace — both those related to their medical conditions and, unfortunately, misconceptions that commonly result. Where feasible, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to handicapped employees. Failing to do so, as Wal-Mart recently learned, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In Massachusetts, such infractions also trigger liability under the Fair Employment Practices statute.
In June 2008, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reached a settlement with Wal-Mart on behalf of a long-time pharmacy technician who suffered a disability, which the company failed to accommodate. Glenda D. Allen was a Wal-Mart employee since July 1993. In 1994, she was wounded during the course of a robbery at another employer causing permanent damage to her spinal cord. As a result, Ms. Allen walked with an abnormal gait, which required her to use a cane.
Despite her medical condition, Ms. Allen was able to perform the full scope of her duties and responsibilities as a pharmacy technician. Nevertheless, Wal-Mart terminated Ms. Allen. The EEOC settled the suit on behalf of Ms. Allen for $250,000. In discussing the victory, Ms. Allen had this to say:
After beating all the odds — surviving my injury when not expected to survive, walking again when told that I would never walk again, and returning to work where I received excellent performance evaluations and consistent merit increases — I was devastated to have the rug pulled out from underneath me simply because Wal-Mart could no longer accommodate my handicap needs. I am hopeful that this settlement will make Wal-Mart take a closer look at its policies and practices with respect to the employment of individuals with disabilities so that what happened to me will not happen to someone else.
To read more about the settlement, please visit the EEOC’s Press Release entitled, Wal-Mart to Pay $250,000 for Disability Bias.