In a cautionary tale for all employers covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ACA), Wal-Mart is now on the hook for $50,000 and mandated internal reforms at a site where a manager refused to listen to a 22-year employee's request for a reasonable accommodation, instead demanding that she return to full duty.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, charged that Wal-Mart fired Marcia Arney rather than attempting to return her to her job following a medical leave related to  her cerebral palsy.  When Arney showed the store manager a note from her doctor requesting an accommodation involving periodic breaks off her feet, the manager refused  to return her to her job and instead demanded that she obtain a medical  release with no restrictions.

Under the consent decree settling the suit, Wal-Mart will conduct annual live ADA training of management  officials at its Carlsbad store. It will  also post a notice of its agreement with the EEOC so that employees are aware  of procedures for reporting disability discrimination. The company has also committed to not requiring  disabled workers to produce a full release from their doctor upon returning  from a medical leave.

Further, the  company will engage in an interactive process with disabled employees to find reasonable accommodations to assist them in performing their jobs. Future charges and lawsuits alleging disability discrimination will be reported to the EEOC for the duration of the decree,  as will requests by employees for accommodation of a disability.

“Federal regulations explaining amendments to the ADA made it clear that many impairments, cerebral palsy among  them, do not require a lengthy analysis to determine whether or not they are  'substantially limiting,' which is the standard for coverage,” said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s local office.  “Employers who used to argue otherwise should  get up to speed on the clarifications Congress made to the ADA to ensure that  most people with disabilities will be covered."