Walmart Changes Disabled Workers Reassignment Policy After Settling Discrimination Lawsuit

Walmart has announced it will be changing its policy on reassigning disabled workers, after agreeing to settle a discrimination lawsuit for $80,000.

The lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claims the retail giant failed to provide longtime employee Veronica Resendez with sufficient options after she developed stenosis of the spine and could no longer perform her role as sales associate at a Walmart store in Augusta, Maine.

Walmart allegedly said the only positions that could accommodate her disability were fitting room associate and people greeter, but no such roles were available at the Augusta store.

However, there were two fitting room associate positions available in Waterville and one in Thomaston, which Walmart failed to inform Resendez of.

At the time, Walmart's disability reassignment policy meant that they only searched for open positions in the store where the employee had been working.

The EEOC says that Resendez "would have happily accepted" jobs in either of the two other locations if they were offered.

Resendez, who had worked at Walmart since 1999, left the company after failing to find a new role at the store where she was working.

The EEOC accused Walmart of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states that employees with disabilities must be offered reassignment to a vacant position as part of reasonable accommodations allowing them to keep their jobs.

As part of the settlement with the EEOC, Walmart said it will now be changing its reassignment policies so that workers with disabilities can ask the company to search up to five stores beyond their current location for a vacant position. Resendez will also receive $80,000 as part of the settlement.

"Federal law requires employers to reassign employees with a disability to vacant positions as the reasonable accommodation of last resort," said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District Office.

"We are very pleased that this lawsuit, which arose from a single employee's complaint, resulted in the nationwide change we sought, and we applaud Walmart for making that change."

EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry added: "Employers cannot refuse to offer a reasonable accommodation required by law absent undue hardship. This case demonstrates that looking beyond the home store for a vacant position is not an undue hardship."

In a statement to the Newsweek, Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said: "We don't tolerate discrimination of any kind.

"We've been a top employer for people with disabilities for many years and have thousands of associates who perform their jobs with reasonable accommodation, including job reassignment.

"Well before the settlement we were testing a program that lets hourly associates search other stores in their area for a job they can perform, and we plan to roll this out to all U.S. stores by February 2020.

"We are pleased to resolve this matter and wish Ms. Resendez well."

Shoppers wait in line to pay for their purchases at a Walmart store in Los Angeles, California on November 24, 2009. Walmart will pay a former worker $80,000and change its national reassigment policies to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty