Chair for Disabled Employee vs. EEOC Lawsuit

Most employers would rather provide a chair to an employee as a reasonable accommodation than get sued by the EEOC.  In a recent EEOC lawsuit against Walmart, the EEOC alleged that after providing a chair and a modified schedule to an employee undergoing treatment for bone cancer, Walmart revoked the accommodation, began requiring the employee to “haul” a chair from another department if she wanted to sit, and then reassigned the employee to a position that required standing.  In addition, Walmart allowed a co-worker to, among other wrongful actions, imitate the employee’s limp, hide her chair, and call her “cripple” and “chemo brain.”

It is not clear what defenses, if any, Walmart has to the EEOC’s claims.  However, employers need to remember that the threshold to prove that an accommodation creates an undue hardship is high (and even higher when the accommodation has previously been provided and is being revoked).  Employers also need to remind supervisors to respond appropriately to complaints about teasing, especially where the subject matter of the teasing is an employee’s membership in a protected class.

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