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Two lawsuits involving the American with Disabilities Act of 1967 (ADA) against the giant retailer, Wal-Mart, were settled in Missouri by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) St. Louis District Office on December 20, 2001. The combined amount of the settlements totaled $539,534. The local agreements were part of a comprehensive settlement that ultimately will resolve 13 ADA lawsuits across the country between the Commission and Wal-Mart. The national settlement package, which was signed as a consent decree in Sacramento, California on December 17, 2001, provides $6.8 million for two separate funds to compensate alleged victims of disability bias. The first fund earmarks $3.8 million for identified charging parties and aggrieved individuals in these and 11 other disability bias suit filed by the EEOC against Wal-Mart. The second fund provides $3 million in damages for individuals yet to be identified who were allegedly harmed by interview forms that violated the ADA. In addition, the national settlement package provides for job offers to aggrieved individuals and wholesale changes to Wal-Mart’s ADA policies and procedures. Wal-Mart will create an ADA Coordinator position and provide extensive training in ADA compliance. A Special Master will be appointed to oversee the implementation of the settlement terms. Also, Wal-Mart will provide priority consideration for hiring at its distribution centers to applicants who were qualified for employment but rejected based on medical or disability related information requested during a now defunct interview process that was used between 1994 and 1998. A toll-free number (1-866-513-8206) has been established for applicants at Wal-Mart distribution centers between 1994 and 1998 who may have been affected by pre-employment inquiries. More information and claim forms are also available at www.eeocvwalmart.com. In the Kansas City case, the EEOC alleged that Wal-Mart discriminated against James Bernard, who uses a wheelchair, at its Clinton, Mo., store when it refused to hire him or even provide him with an application because of his disability. Bernard sought a job at Wal-Mart because he had seen the retailer’s advertising and thought that the company would be accepting of someone with a disability. Bernard intervened in the EEOC’s lawsuit and was represented by Lynne Brathcher of the law firm Bratcher & Gockel in Kansas City. In the St. Louis case, the EEOC alleged that Wal-Mart violated the ADA when its Sam’s Wholesale Club in Florissant, Missouri, failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for a former employee with bipolar disorder (a/k/a manic depression) and then fired him because of his disability in November 1999. According to the EEOC, the employee’s brother called the company and asked that it provide the former worker with a brief leave of absence to adjust the medication for his disability. Rather than provide the requested reasonable accommodation, Sam’s violated the ADA when it fired the worker because he did not personally request time off. The consent decrees, now pending approval for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City, respectively, require Wal-Mart to pay a total of $539,534 to the two Missouri victims, train and educate managers about the requirements of the ADA, notify its Missouri employees about the settlement, and offer employment to Bernard. In addition, the decrees enjoin Wal-Mart from discriminating against its employees and job applicants in the future or from retaliating against anyone who reports employment discrimination. Robert G. Johnson, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, expressed his optimism that this agreement hails a “new day” for Wal-Mart and its 1.14 million employees. “After months of negotiations by a national negotiation team for the EEOC and Wal-Mart, we now have an agreement that ensures that Wal-Mart will respect the rights of people with disabilities.” “We are so pleased that Wal-Mart has agreed to make major changes in its policies regarding the employment of people with disabilities,” said Andrea Baran, the EEOC trial attorney who handled the Kansas City case. “In many rural communities, Wal-Mart is one of the few employers, and we believe that the requirements of these consent decrees will open up even more jobs to people who are able and ready to work.” � 2002, CCH INCORPORATED. All Rights Reserved.

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