Today, A Better Balance filed a lawsuit in federal court against Walmart on behalf of client Virginia James, a South Carolina resident and former Walmart employee. In the complaint, A Better Balance alleges that Walmart failed to provide Ms. James with reasonable accommodations for her disabilities and punished her by assigning her attendance points and ultimately firing her because of her disabilities. A Better Balance previously filed an EEOC charge challenging James’ termination as a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, shortly after releasing its groundbreaking report, “Pointing Out: How Walmart Unlawfully Punishes Workers for Medical Absences.” The EEOC subsequently made a finding of Probable Cause regarding Ms. James’s charge, concluding that Walmart had violated the ADA by refusing to grant Ms. James a reasonable accommodation and firing her because of her disabilities.
Ms. James was a dedicated employee of Walmart for almost a decade until Walmart fired her for absences caused by her disabilities. Although Ms. James diligently followed Walmart’s protocols and offered doctor’s notes to excuse her absences, Walmart told Ms. James that “a doctor’s note does not excuse an absence” and repeatedly punished her for her disability-related absences by assigning her “points” pursuant to their nationwide “no-fault” attendance policy, which automatically punishes workers by assigning them attendance points for unscheduled absences, including those related to disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and South Carolina Human Affairs Law. Ultimately, Walmart fired Ms. James for her disability-related absences, telling her that she was “not benefitting Walmart right now.”
James wrote in a 2020 Medium post that being fired “was devastating. I had worked all my life and put in nearly ten years with Walmart, which felt like home. I was proud to work there. I had never been fired from a job before, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage. How was I going to pay my rent, and buy food and clothes for my 9-year-old son?”
As A Better Balance highlighted in another seminal report, “Misled & Misinformed,” abusive attendance policies like Walmart’s, which are used by some of our country’s largest employers, systematically violate workers’ rights to time off without punishment for certain medical, pregnancy-related, and caregiving needs.
“With this case, we hope to achieve justice and remediation for Virginia, who deserves compensation for her unfair and illegal termination. She has been fighting for many years and seeks to make a difference not only for herself, but to encourage and inspire others who have also been wronged,” said A Better Balance Director of Strategic Litigation Katherine Greenberg.
“Virginia’s bravery will show that Walmart cannot get away with maintaining a “no-fault” attendance system that totally flouts the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As we have detailed extensively in our Pointing Out and Misled & Misinformed reports, our country’s largest employers have an absolute responsibility to ensure their employees aren’t punished for taking legally-protected leave and their policies and practices are in full compliance with the law,” said A Better Balance Co-Founder & Co-President Dina Bakst.
A Better Balance filed the complaint with co-counsel David Nauheim, a South Carolina attorney who focuses his practice on representing employees in disability and race discrimination cases.