The Walmart logo is displayed outside their store near Bloomsburg.
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Walmart for firing a North Carolina employee with Crohn’s disease after the retail giant allegedly refused to grant her disability-related leave.
The EEOC’s complaint, filed in Charlotte federal court, accuses Walmart of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act in its treatment of deli worker Adrian Tucker.
The lawsuit comes months after a Wisconsin federal court judge rejected Walmart’s request for a new trial in a case where the EEOC sued the retailer for firing an employee with Down syndrome.
In that case, a jury in 2021 found that Walmart wrongfully fired Marlo Spaeth, who worked for nearly 16 years at a Walmart Supercenter, after failing to accommodate her disability when her working hours were changed.
The jury’s verdict called for Walmart to pay more than $125 million in damages for its treatment of Spaeth. That was reduced by the judge to $300,000, the maximum allowed under the law.
In the new North Carolina case, the EEOC alleges Walmart fired Tucker for violating the company’s attendance policy after nine “unauthorized” absences in a period of six months.
Tucker worked for Walmart between February 2014 and April 2017 at its Statesville store.
While there, Tucker served customers, took orders, prepared food, washed dishes and lifted boxes of chicken weighing up to 50 pounds.
According to the complaint, Tucker suffers from Crohn’s disease, a chronic bowel condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, which can lead to stomach cramps, dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea.
The EEOC alleges Walmart refused to provide reasonable accommodation to her when she experienced symptoms multiple times between November 2016 and April 2017.
The complaint further says Tucker asked for intermittent leave or excused absences, as well as requesting to be moved to a position closer to the bathroom.
While Walmart excused some of her disability-related absences it did not accommodate several other absences that were due to medical appointments and a hospitalization, the suit says.
The EEOC is seeking monetary relief for Tucker, which incluides back pay, and compensatory and punitive damages. The commission also seeks injunctive relief against Walmart to end any ongoing discrimination.
Melinda Dugas, the regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District, said in a statement, “The Americans with Disabilities Act was created to protect employees like this deli associate.”
Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An attorney representing Tucker declined to comment beyond the complaint citing “pending litigation.”