In December, A Better Balance filed a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of our client, South Carolina worker Ernest Paschal II. The charge alleges that Walmart’s points-based absence control policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by punishing employees for taking legally-protected time off work to address their own serious health needs. This filing continues our long-standing efforts to ensure Walmart’s policies treat vulnerable workers fairly, as highlighted in our report “Pointing Out: How Walmart Unlawfully Punishes Workers for Medical Absences,” which garnered widespread attention, including from The New York Times.
Ernest Paschal II, a 44-year-old father, was a dedicated Walmart employee who took pride in his work as an Asset Protection Door Host. During the summer of 2022, Ernest began to suffer from debilitating symptoms, later revealed to be caused by life-threatening sepsis. Despite following Walmart’s call out procedure for each of his absences and informing his supervisors of his illness, Ernest was assigned punitive points for every one of his sepsis-related absences. And although Ernest repeatedly asked his supervisors to waive these points and carefully followed his supervisors’ instructions to apply for protected leave, he was deemed ineligible for leave and fired while his accommodation request was still pending. Walmart’s callous actions devastated Ernest emotionally and financially.
Unfortunately, this is a part of Walmart’s pattern of punishing workers for medical absences by assigning them points. At Walmart, employees who receive “too many” points miss out on pay raises and promotional opportunities, and can even be fired. Often, employees receive points regardless of the reason for their absences, including for absences caused by medical conditions or caregiving obligations that qualify for legally-protected time off under federal, state, and local law. Punishing workers like Ernest for disability-related absences runs afoul of the ADA’s prohibition on disability discrimination and its requirement that employers provide workers with reasonable accommodations, including time off for medical treatment and recovery. But rather than abide by the ADA by waiving Ernest’s illness-related points, Walmart punished Ernest by firing him.
Walmart must do better by its employees. With 2.3 million employees around the world and total revenue of close to $570 billion in the most recent fiscal year, Walmart is the world’s largest company by revenue. In the United States, Walmart is the country’s largest private employer with 5,320 stores and 1.6 million associates. Walmart has particular significance in rural areas and small towns, where there may be fewer jobs available.
A Better Balance is committed to protecting workers’ rights like Ernest’s. Workers who have experienced similar treatment at Walmart are encouraged to contact our free and confidential legal helpline at 1-833-NEED-ABB or visit our get help page.