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April 30, 2018

Walmart sued over Augusta employee's disability discrimination claim

Walmart Inc. violated federal law by failing to reassign a long-term employee after she became disabled while working at one of its stores in Augusta, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges in a lawsuit filed last week.

The complaint alleges that Veronica Resendez, who had worked for Walmart since 1999, developed a disability that, according to Walmart, prevented her from working in her sales position in Augusta.

While there were no such positions vacant in Augusta, there were two fitting-room associate positions open in Waterville, according to the EEOC.

Because Walmart policy was to search for open positions only in the store in which the employee had been working, it never transferred her to Waterville, which the EEOC says “she would have happily accepted.”

After trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine. It is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.

The EEOC noted its release that the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability and imposes a requirement that employees with disabilities be provided a reasonable accommodation, absent undue hardship on the employer. The ADA states that one of those accommodations can be reassignment to a vacant position.

In a statement emailed to the Portland Press Herald, Walmart’s director for national media relations Ragan Dickens said: “We value our associates and work with them when they face life changes that impact their ability to do their job. We have been in discussions to see if this matter can be resolved.”

Citing the lawsuit filed by EEOC senior trial attorney attorney Markus L. Penzel, the Press Herald reported that Resendez began working for Walmart in 1999 as a cashier in Texas and transferred to the Augusta store in December 2009.

Penzel told the paper that Walmart is expected to file a response to the complaint within 60 days of accepting it, and that this is the first time in his 19 years with the EEOC that the agency has sued Walmart in Maine.

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