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EEOC charges Wal-Mart over disability bias against worker with bone cancer

EEOC charges Wal-Mart over disability bias against worker with bone cancer

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is charging Wal-Mart Stores Inc. with disability discrimination and harassment for allegedly refusing to set up a chair for an associate suffering from bone cancer.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer said it denies the EEOC's “misleading” charges.

The EEOC said in a statement last week that Wal-Mart initially agreed to comply with a request by Nancy Stack, who worked in its Hodgkins, Illinois, store, that the company provide a chair in her work area in the fitting room and limit her scheduled work hours because treatment for bone cancer in her leg limited her ability to work and stand.

But, after complying with her scheduling accommodation for many months, the store revoked it “for no reason,” said the agency, in a statement issued last week.

Furthermore, said the agency, the store did not ensure that a chair was in Ms. Stack's work area, “at one point telling her that she had to haul a chair from the furniture department every day, which was of course hard for her to do given her disability.”

The EEOC said also that the store then transferred Ms. Stack from the fitting room to a greeter position, which did not comply with her standing restrictions.

In addition, it said a co-worker harassed Ms. Stock by calling her names, imitating her limp, and removing or hiding the chair she needed, and that the store took no action in response to her complaints.

The EEOC is charging Wal-Mart with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“It's hard to believe a retailer the size of Wal-Mart could not manage to consistently provide such a simple accommodation as a chair,” said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for EEOC's Chicago district office, in a statement.

“Telling a disabled employee that she needs to drag a chair across the store every day is no accommodation at all. Employers have to provide reasonable accommodations unless doing so would be an undue hardship. EEOC is aware of no hardship that required Wal-Mart to suddenly change Stack's schedule, deny her the use of a chair, and transfer her out of the fitting room where she had performed her job well for years.”

A Wal-Mart spokesman said in a statement, “We strongly disagree with the allegations raised in the complaint. Wal-Mart does not condone or tolerate discrimination of any kind, and our company has thousands of associates who perform their jobs with reasonable accommodations that we have provided.

“Ms. Stack is a current Wal-Mart associate, and for years we have provided her a reasonable accommodation to assist her in performing essential job duties. We intend to defend the company against the EEOC's misleading claims.”

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