CAUTIONARY TALE EPISODE 66 BATHROOM DISCRIMINATION « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


EEOC: Walmart Failed to Accommodate Disabled Worker’s Toilet Trips

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), charged with enforcing federal protections against workplace disability discrimination, has sued WalMart in North Carolina for allegedly declining to provide reasonable accommodation and improperly terminating a Crohn’s disease-afflicted employee. The EEOC asserts the worker was deprived requested absences for medical appointments and hospitalization as well as transfer to a position closer to a bathroom.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), applicable to employers with 15 or more on payroll, protects disabled employees – otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of their jobs — from discrimination.  Absent undue hardship, employers must seek and provide reasonable accommodations to allow such workers to perform those essential functions.

The government’s suit claims Walmart violated the ADA by firing the worker for incurring more unexcused absences than allowed under company policy, despite her providing doctor’s notes. The EEOC seeks monetary recovery for the former employee as well as a court order to bar any future discrimination.

The EEOC’s regional attorney commented, “The Americans with Disabilities Act was created to protect employees like this deli associate. Here you have a long-term employee who—at the onset of a debilitating health condition—needs some flexibility from her employer while she seeks medical treatment and works toward managing the condition.”

Presuming no dispute on the number and nature of employee’s absences, Walmart would need to justify the termination by establishing the worker’s non-attendance created a significant adverse impact on its operations.

Take Away: On an employee’s claim of difficulty to perform his/her duties due to a physical or emotional impediment, management must diligently strive to find a reasonable accommodation to assist  the worker to perform up to company standards.  The EEOC offers a series of company actions to meet that obligation.  However, if such alternative measures would impose a sufficient adverse impact on the conduct of business (so-called “undue hardship”), the company would be justified in declining accommodation and in terminating the individual. For example, a trucking company need not hire blind drivers to be supported by assistants to loudly warn of impending collisions.

For further information, please contact Tim BowlesCindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

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Tim Bowles
April 14, 2023

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