Court allows Wal-Mart discrimination suit

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can continue its disability discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., an appeals court has ruled.

The EEOC filed the suit in January 2004 claiming that Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it refused to hire a man who has cerebral palsy.

In August 2005, a federal judge in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted summary judgment to the world’s largest retailer, saying that the EEOC did not present sufficient evidence in favor of Steven J. Bradley Jr. The EEOC appealed, which led to Tuesday’s ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Bradley, who uses crutches and a wheelchair, tried to get a job at a Wal-Mart in Richmond, about 40 miles northeast of Kansas City, but was not hired.

Wal-Mart has denied that it discriminated against Bradley based on his disability and cited its anti-discrimination policy.

“We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind anywhere in our operations,” Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said on Wednesday. “Our decision not to hire Mr. Bradley had nothing to do with his disability. But because the matter is in litigation, it wouldn’t be appropriate to provide further comment.”

Robert Johnson, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District, said Wednesday that the commission is looking forward to having a jury determine whether Bradley encountered discrimination.

“The Eighth Circuit decided it’s up to the jury to decide those factual issues, including whether Wal-Mart had covered up its discrimination,” Johnson said.

No new court dates have been set, he said.

In December 2001, the EEOC and Wal-Mart agreed to a $6.8 million national settlement of a discrimination suit.

The agency had accused Wal-Mart of using a pre-employment questionnaire that violated the Americans with Disabilities Act between Jan. 1, 1994, and Dec. 31, 1998. The suit also covered several disabled employees’ dismissals, or the company’s failure to accommodate employees with disabilities.

Wal-Mart shares fell 11 cents to $47.87 on the New York Stock Exchange.