Across the country, Walmart is making serious changes to about 1,000 of its stores. Once known for one of the few companies that opened its arms to workers with special needs, it is now under scrutiny due to eliminating their greeters. As people who have visited Walmart know, the greeter positions were often staffed by individuals who had difficulty performing other types of labor. Now, the impending layoffs of countless greeters who say they have nowhere else to go is causing some workers and their families to consider the legality of Walmart’s decision.
Walmart still plans to have people at the front of its stores, however, those employees will no longer have the job of smiling at customers and presenting a presence of goodwill. Now, the position will morph into a customer service role. As such, the next generation of Walmart greeters will not only help identify shoplifters, but will take a bigger responsibility in directing consumers to different parts of the store. Additionally, the emerging job description necessitates that all front-of-store workers stand for long periods, climb ladders, and lift 25-pound objects. Would-be employees who require assistive devices or have physical conditions affecting their muscles and bones cannot safely fulfill those tasks.
Recently, a Walmart greeter suffering from cerebral palsy from a Pennsylvania-based store, did not take the news of his impending job loss lightly. Neither did his mother, who blanketed social media with word of her son’s employment termination. Within days, support grew to an international hashtag. Eventually, the employee’s Walmart store reversed its original intention to let go of him. Instead, they found a different place for him in their store.
His story has a happy ending, but the ending is grim for other Walmart greeters who have been told they can expect to receive severance, but no lateral moves within their stores. Walmart’s public response is that it is doing its best to avoid letting its greeters go whenever possible, but greeters are telling the press that they are limited within the corporation due to job description responsibilities they cannot fulfill.
The big question now is whether Walmart is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, which says employing companies must provide their workers with known disabilities with reasonable accommodations. Already, lawsuits have come to the forefront, and more may follow as up to 85 percent of greeters are about to lose their jobs and seek answers.
The Walmart greeter story may be headline news, but questions of potential discrimination against older and disabled workers can happen in any business environment. If you have been discriminated against in the workplace, please contact the Allegheny County employment lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. today. Call us at 412-765-1888 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Pittsburgh, we serve clients from the surrounding areas, including Allegheny County, Lawrence County, Washington County, and throughout western Pennsylvania.