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In the third such lawsuit it has filed against employers in the past year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has charged a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. unit with disability discrimination for allegedly refusing to let a job applicant with end-stage renal disease take an alternate drug test to urinalysis.
The agency on Friday said Laura Jones was offered a job as an evening sales associate at a Wal-Mart store in Cockeysville, Md., pending passing a urinalysis test for illegal drugs. When Ms. Jones explained she cannot produce urine because she has end-stage renal disease, the assistant store manager told her to ask the drug testing company about alternate tests, the agency said in a statement.
Ms. Jones was told by the testing company that while it offered other drug tests, such as a mouth swab/saliva test, Wal-Mart had to order the alternate drug test. When Ms. Jones relayed this to the assistant store manager, even offering to pay for the alternate test if Wal-Mart would order it, she was told the “corporate office” said Ms. Jones could not be hired if she did not pass a urinalysis test, according to the agency.
Ms. Jones' application was closed for failing to take a urinalysis within 24 hours, , according to the agency.
The EEOC is charging Wal-Mart Stores East L.P., a unit of Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, in federal district court in Baltimore with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The agency said it has filed two similar lawsuits in the past year: in Baltimore against Hofmann Estates, Ill.-based Sears Holdings Corp. and its Kmart Corp. unit; and in Dallas against the Fort Worth, Texas-based Fort Worth Center of Rehabilitation. In both cases, the plaintiffs also suffered from end-stage renal disease.
“While an employer may require applicants to undergo a drug test, these lawsuits should send a strong message to all employers that they simply cannot have a blanket, inflexible policy or practice of requiring only a urinalysis test, regardless of the circumstances,” said Debra M. Lawrence, EEOC Philadelphia regional attorney, in a statement. “Paying attention to federal disability law and making a minimal effort to accommodate this applicant would have saved everyone a lot of trouble.”
“Walmart does not tolerate discrimination of any kind," the company said in a statement. "We have thousands of associates who regularly perform their jobs with reasonable accommodations, and we also make reasonable accommodations to job applicants. We strongly disagree with the EEOC’s mischaracterization of the facts in this case.”