The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Walmart Inc. of Bentonville for allegedly firing disabled workers who couldn't pass a skills test.
The complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas says that Walmart began administering the test for all entry-level workers in 2015. The exam, called the “Pathways Graduation Assessment,” was part of a training program designed to measure employees' knowledge of customer service, inventory essentials, retail fundamentals and merchandising.
Walmart fired employees who didn't pass the 25-question exam after three attempts, even if the employees could still perform the essentials of their jobs, according to the complaint.
The complaint says the test "screened out or tended to screen out" a nationwide class of employees, specifically those with disabilities.
A deaf former employee at a Walmart location in North Little Rock was named as a plaintiff. She performed the essential duties of her job as an apparel associate, but failed the test and was fired in 2018.
A second plaintiff was identified as a former overnight stocker at a Walmart location in Fayetteville. The intellectually disabled worker was fired in 2018 because she failed the test, not because of performance issues, the complaint says.
The EEOC also accused Walmart of failing to provide the two named plaintiffs with an interpreter.
Walmart said in a statement, “Walmart has been a top employer for those with disabilities for years. We created our Pathways program with the needs of all associates in mind, and this included advising them of accommodation options through up to seven audial and visual pop-up notifications as they took the training and assessment. We discontinued the program several years ago and plan to defend the company.”
The lawsuit accuses the retailer of violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It seeks monetary relief in the form of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, compensation for lost benefits, and an injunction against future discrimination.
The suit is the fourth brought by the EEOC against Walmart this year. Two suits accuse the retail giant of unlawfully firing employees who missed work due to their disabilities. Another suit alleges that Walmart refused to accommodate two deaf workers in Olathe, Kansas, by providing them with an interpreter or communicating with them in writing.