We have followed the case of two deaf men who applied for work at Wal-Mart six years ago, but were rejected, and their subsequent lawsuit against Wal-Mart. The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service carried a story this week that Wal-Mart plans to ask a federal judge in Tucson,Arizona to reconsider his ruling that the giant retailer make a television commercial admitting it violated the Americans With Disabilities Act. U.S. District Judge William Browning fined Wal-Mart $750,200 after finding it in contempt for not complying with the consent decree in a lawsuit that charged the corporation with discrimination for failing to hire the two deaf men. A Wal-Mart spokesman told the LA Times that the company never admitted discrimination in settling the suit. “Even if we are judged to have violated the consent decree, there were provisions of the decree that went beyond the ADA itself,” Wal-Mart was quoted as saying. “So we’re uncertain how the judge determined the ADA was violated.” The company was ordered to make a 30-second commercial and air it for two weeks on major Arizona stations. “This was not something that had been discussed with us previously,” Wal-Mart complained. Jeremy Fass and William Darnell sued Wal-Mart after they applied for jobs on the dock of a store in Tucson in 1995. Neither man ever got an interview callback even though Fass’ mother, who worked at the store, knew they were hiring. When they inquired further, they were informed there were no jobs. The judge approved the consent decree Jan. 6, 2000, and Wal-Mart hired Fass and Darnell at $8 an hour and paid them $66,250 each in back wages and damages, according to the LA Times. The company also paid $57,500 in attorneys’ fees and costs to the prosecuting agencies. Wal-Mart also hired a sign-language interpreter during a two-week training period for Fass and Darnell, as required. All this — but no admission of discriminatory behavior. But, as the deadline on the consent decree approached, the agencies charged the company had not met its obligation to train supervisors on the ADA and had not inserted a sign-language interpreter into corporate training videos. Wal-Mart was unable to meet the deadline for those requirements. “But we felt that we had made a good-faith effort to satisfy all of the requirements of the decree and asked for an extension to complete the training,” the Wal-Mart spokesman said. Wal-Mart said it plans to ask the judge to recalculate the fine. The amount was based on noncompliance at 22 stores – 12 more than were included in the original order, he said.
If Wal-Mart did not agree that they discriminated against these two deaf men, then what was the consent decree all about: drunk driving? One might wonder why Wal-Mart didn’t just admit a mistake was made with these two gentlemen, and move on. Instead, they are haggling with the court over how many stores were involved, how big the fine will be, etc. This is a company approaching $200 billion in sales a year. It would have shown more class to just correct the situation rather than complain about the terms of the decree. It’s understandable that Wal-Mart, which spends millions every week on “good works” advertising, wouldn’t want to admit on TV that it discriminated against two deaf guys — but with a huge sexual discrimination class action lawsuit now staring them in the face — what’s the fuss about at this point? It would be better to take their lumps and move on. There must be a corpoate theory that being big means never having to say you’re sorry. Especially on TV. Want to bet you won’t see Fass and Darnell on any Wal-Mart “good. works” ads? Maybe these two employees would like to go on a Wal-Mart “survivor” show. They’ve lasted 6 years in court with Wal-Mart.