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Employer Update: Avoid ADA Discrimination Liability If You Can Provide Reasonable Accommodation Without Undue Hardship

above-the-bar-logo-no12.jpgWalmart was recently hit with a lawsuit by the EEOC for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by failing to accommodate an employee with a disability. The charges also included retaliation against the mega retailer for firing the employee because of his disability and for exercising his civil rights. The EEOC is seeking monetary damages on behalf of the employee discriminated against, training on the ADA and steps to stop Walmart from future discrimination.

The EEOC’s investigation showed that the Walmart employee, David Gallo, began working at its Placerville, California location in June 2003. The company was aware that Gallo had a heart condition called atrial fibrillation which causes shortness of breath and difficulty walking. Gallo received good performance evaluations which resulted in him being promoted from overnight stocker to manager of the store’s tire lube express bay.
Although Gallo had a handicap parking placard and the company knew of his disability, in March 2008, the new store manager stopped Gallo from parking in the handicap parking spaces or any other spots near the front of the store. In September 2008, Gallo filed a charge with the EEOC for Walmart’s failure to accommodate his disability. He was then fired eight months later for an error that an employee working under him made. However, the employee and the person who had reviewed his work were not fired.

The ADA prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities with respect to hiring, firing, promotions, compensation, as well as any other terms or conditions of employment. An individual with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of the impairment, or is regarded as having the impairment.

An employer is legally required to make a reasonable accommodation if it does not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer’s business. For example, it is a reasonable accommodation to allow a diabetic employee to take scheduled breaks to check his or her sugar level. A reasonable accommodation is an “undue hardship” if it requires significant expense or difficulty given the employer’s size, financial resources, and business operations.

Clearly, Walmart should have accommodated Gallo by allowing him to park in the handicap parking spot or at the least, allowed him to park close to the front of the store. Considering that Walmart knew of Gallo’s disability and could have easily accommodated him, Walmart’s actions were completely unreasonable. To top it off, Walmart then retaliated against Gallo for filing an EEOC complaint and fired him. Given Walmart’s size, financial resources, and past instances of disability discrimination, it is a shame that Walmart engaged in this behavior.

Now matter how big or small your company, make sure your managers and supervisors are trained on the ADA. Our attorneys have conducted hundreds of training sessions on the ADA and Title VII to help businesses save thousands of dollars by avoiding potential litigation. Call our ADA Attorneys at Villanueva & Sanchala at (800) 893-9645 to help you safeguard your company against potential ADA claims.

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