Eliminating Store Greeters, Walmart Targets Workers with Cerebral Palsy, Disabilities
Walmart recently changed the scope of the job for the standard store greeters. These employees, who stand or sit at the entrance to Walmart stores, greet customers as they enter and answer any questions. The company changed the job “people greeter” to “customer hosts,” a move which many of the greeters say target them unfairly for living with cerebral palsy or being otherwise disabled and costing them their jobs. Many have started lawsuits against Walmart.
Walmart Greeter Change of Scope
Walmart employs more worker than any other private company in the U.S. And many of those employees have cerebral palsy and other significant disabilities. A popular job for disabled workers is that of store greeter, officially people greeter. It’s a job that is not physically demanding, allowing for more disabled people to be able to do it and earn a living.
Recently the company made significant changes to the role, shifting away from greeters and toward what they call customer hosts. With this shift comes a change in scope of duties that has left too many disabled workers out, unable to perform some of the new requirements of the job.
Some of the new duties of customer hosts include helping with security and assisting customers. Some of the new requirements are that an individual in this position must be able to lift 25 pounds, stand for long periods of time, and gather up carts in the parking lot.
Getting Fired for Being Disabled – Lawsuits and Claims Filed
The result in these changes at Walmart is that disabled greeters at nearly 1,000 stores have either lost their jobs or are soon to lose them. Many of the store greeters, who have cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and other disabilities, cannot meet the new requirements. In effect, they are losing their jobs for being disabled.
Two greeters, cousins, both living with cerebral palsy, lost their jobs last year at a store in Troy, Michigan. They feel they were fired for being disabled. The store that let them go did not help them find new positions with the company.
The two men, Joe and John Wirth, are just two of many who are now filing lawsuits or civil rights complaints against Walmart. The former greeters say that they were not just leg go but also pressured into signing documents that claimed they were leaving their positions voluntarily.
Walmart CEO Responds
As the backlash over greeter changes continues, CEO, Greg Foran has replied with a letter to store managers. He stated that every effort should be made to find new positions in Walmart stores for those greeters who are not able to continue in the role of customer host but still want to work for the company. Critics say that the letter is a nice sentiment, but that it does not in any way make a real commitment to ensuring these workers will still have a job.
Some have already found new positions, but in many cases only with major support from the public. Jay Melton, a greeter for nearly 17 years at a Walmart in North Carolina, received a new position as a self-checkout host. With cerebral palsy, Melton cannot walk or stand. He only got the new job after thousands of members of the community signed a petition on his behalf.
The changes at Walmart inordinately impact disabled workers, and this is a big issue. Many greeters have already and will continue to lose their jobs. With significant disabilities they will struggle to find new positions, and the claims and lawsuits against Walmart over this are expected to rise.