Walmart worker in NC got fired for missing work due to chronic illness, EEOC lawsuit says

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Wal-Mart Stores East, saying it violated federal law after refusing to excuse a North Carolina employee’s disability-related absences, then firing her.

A Walmart store in Statesville “refused to provide a reasonable accommodation” to a deli employee with symptoms of Crohn’s disease, which violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EEOC said in a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. The store is located at 1116 Crossroads Drive, Statesville, court documents show.

From November 2016 to April 2017, the Walmart employee requested excused disability-related absences. She also had asked to be transferred to a position closer to a bathroom. Crohn’s disease is a physical impairment of the digestive and bowel systems that limits activity, according to the lawsuit.

Walmart excused some of the employee’s absences but denied several medical emergencies and appointments, and a hospitalization, according to the lawsuit.

Then in April 2017, Walmart fired the employee, who had worked there for three years, for “incurring unexcused absences exceeding the number of absences allowed under company policy, even though she had provided doctor’s notes,” the EEOC said.

“Here you have a long-term employee who — at the onset of a debilitating health condition — needs some flexibility from her employer while she seeks medical treatment and works toward managing the condition,” Melinda Dugas, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District, said in a statement.

The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the employee, as well as additional relief to end any ongoing discrimination and to prevent such unlawful conduct in the future.

Walmart officials told The Charlotte Observer on Tuesday that the lawsuit is under review and thousands of company employees receive reasonable accommodations to perform their jobs.

“We have been a top employer for those with disabilities for years,” Walmart said. “We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind and take allegations like this seriously.”