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EEOC Finds That Walmart’s Attendance Policy Likely Violates ADA, In The Midst Of COVID-19 Pandemic

EEOC Finds that Walmart’s Attendance Policy Likely Violates ADA, In the Midst of COVID-19 Pandemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK (March 12, 2020) — The EEOC recently issued a determination finding probable cause that Walmart’s attendance policy violated the rights of Walmart workers under the ADA. The letter was made public by Virginia James, an A Better Balance client and disability rights advocate, in her Medium post published today: “Walmart’s Attendance Policy Penalizes Workers With Disabilities Like Me. The EEOC Agrees.” The determination is timely for those workers with disabilities who may feel particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Ms. James’s Op-Ed details her experience as a worker with severe asthma and diabetes who was fired from her job at Walmart because of disability-related absences when she was not feeling well, pursuant to Walmart’s “no-fault” attendance policy. After she was terminated, A Better Balance filed a charge, along with several others, with the EEOC on Ms. James’s behalf in 2017 following the release of our report, “Pointing Out: How Walmart Unlawfully Punishes Workers for Medical Absences,” published in collaboration with United For Respect.

The legal team at A Better Balance has been advocating for changes to Walmart’s attendance policy for years. Last year we applauded Walmart’s major change to its attendance policy for pregnant workers, following A Better Balance’s class action lawsuit filed in New York challenging the policy for violating the state’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. However, A Better Balance has continued to call on the retail giant to ensure that no worker is punished for a lawful, medical absence – especially workers with disabilities like Virginia James, who the CDC has said are at higher risk of severe health effects due to COVID-19.

Yesterday, Walmart announced a temporary suspension of its attendance policy in certain circumstances and other changes in response to the public health threat posed by COVID-19.

“This decision by the EEOC shows that employers cannot get away with discriminating against workers with disabilities by punishing them for lawful and medically necessary absences, and is especially important during times like these,” said Dina Bakst, Co-Founder & Co-President of A Better Balance. “This decision is a huge step forward for our clients but also for all workers with disabilities at Walmart, especially amidst the current public health crisis. We have been encouraged by the changes Walmart has made to its attendance policies and remain hopeful that the company will make further changes necessary for workers with disabilities so that no worker at Walmart has to sacrifice their health on the job even after the health crisis posed by COVID-19 has ended.”

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ABOUT A BETTER BALANCE: A Better Balance is a nonprofit legal advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring workers can care for themselves and their loved ones, without risking their economic security.

Virginia James and A Better Balance attorneys are available to speak with the press. Contact kobrien@abetterbalance.org.

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