St. Louis Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of a job applicant who claimed he wasn't hired because he has cerebral palsy, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Thursday.
Steven J. Bradley Jr. of Hardin in northwest Missouri applied for a job at a new Wal-Mart Supercenter store in Richmond, Mo., in 2001. The EEOC said Bradley applied for any available position.
But in a suit filed in 2004 by the EEOC, Bradley claimed he was questioned during an interview about his ability to work using his wheelchair. He was allegedly told he was "best suited" for a greeter position. Ultimately, he was not hired.
The EEOC lawsuit claimed the world's biggest retailer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 2005, a federal judge in Kansas City granted summary judgment to Wal-Mart, saying that the EEOC didn't present sufficient evidence on Bradley's behalf. But last year, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling and allowed the lawsuit to proceed.
In addition to the financial settlement, Wal-Mart agreed to provide ADA training to managers at its Richmond store; notify job applicants about the settlement; and inform several Kansas City-area job service agencies that the company seeks to employ qualified persons with disabilities.
"This case sends an important message to employers that they cannot allow stereotypes or assumptions about disabled people to interfere with those people's right to work in jobs for which they are qualified," said Jean Kamp, acting regional attorney for the EEOC's St. Louis district office.
Daphne Moore, a spokeswoman for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, said a diverse work force at all levels is one of Wal-Mart's top priorities.
"This is an isolated situation that we wish had never happened," Moore said. "It has been resolved to the satisfaction of everyone involved. Wal-Mart is one of the largest employers of persons with disabilities, and our commitment to recruit and retain a diverse work force remains as strong as ever."
Andrea Baran, the EEOC attorney who handled the case, said Bradley became interested in working at Wal-Mart after seeing TV ads showing disabled employees.
Bradley does not get a job with Wal-Mart as part of the settlement, Baran said.