On page 9 of the Wal-Mart employee’s manual it says: “We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. Not only is discrimination against our beliefs, it’s against the law.” And Wal-Mart might add: Discrimination is expensive. The company should know. Wal-Mart has lost a string of discrimination lawsuits brought against it by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Phoenix district office of the EEOC, for example, filed another lawsuit last month on behalf of a two deaf men who were denied employment at Wal-Mart. There have been a litany of similar lawsuits against Wal-Mart: In April of 1998, John Otero, a Hispanic with a missing limb was awarded $157,000 when Wal-Mart refused to hire him. (Wal-Mart claimed during his trial that Otero was not disabled, even though the company’s own ADA manual cited a missing limb as a clear example of a disability.) In October of 1997, Jose Zamora, who is a wheelchair bound paraplegic, was awarded $3.57 million from a refusal by Wal-Mart to hire him. A Wal-Mart employee reportedly told Zamora “we already have one of your kind in our garden center”. It took Zamora 4.5 years in court to win his case against Wal-Mart, but he prevailed. So did Eduardo Amaro, another deaf man who was unlawfully fired by Wal-Mart because he was deaf. In April of 1997, Charlene Brock won a racial discrimination suit against Wal-Mart, and in June of 1997, Christina Gurule won a judgment in a sexual harassment lawsuit. And Jamie Stern, who applied for work at Wal-Mart while she was pregnant, won a discrimination lawsuit when Wal-Mart refused to hire her as an associate. A pattern of discrimination? According to EEOC regional lawyer Richard Trujillo: “Wal-Mart is a serious repeat offender of the ADA, certainly one of the most serious this office has encountered in this area.” As for the two deaf men who are now suing Wal-Mart, their lawyer says they have “experienced a different side of Wal-Mart”. “I was shocked at how little Wal-Mart managers knew about the people who are deaf and what assumptions they made about me,” says one of the men, William Darnell. “I hope that employment opportunities for people who are deaf will be better because (we) were not willing to give up,” says the other litigant, Jeremy Fass.
The next time you see one of those ubiquitous Mr.Smiley Wal-Mart ads about how much their “associates” care about each other, remember the case of Jose Zamora, who applied six times for a Wal-Mart job and was told by the personnel manager that Wal-Mart had “no openings for a person in a wheelchair.” For further information about any of the EEOC cases cited here, contact the Phoenix office of the EEOC at 602-640-5041.