Walmart: No Longer A Saviour Of Physically Disabled People

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Every business has established its mission-vision, in hopes of giving value to the company’s image. These values are considered as the backbone of each establishment where owners, even the management and its employees, must strictly adhere to its principles. Any forms of breaking it will be used to question the company’s integrity.

However, this is not now the case for Walmart. The multinational retail company believes that it is a community-driven institution and inclusive for people who are physically handicapped. But just recently, it decided to phase out its familiar blue vested “greeters” in some of its 1,000 store chains in the US. The problem is, the majority of its employees who took the ‘greeters’ positions are disabled and are now most affected by the company’s choice.

The announcement was made last week, informing greeters around the country that their contracts will end on April 26 in favor of the expanded and more physically demanding ‘customer assistant’ role. In addition to the much heavier responsibility, the company created a set of requirement to qualify with the position. Now, the applicant should be able to lift 25-pound or 11-kilogram packages, climb ladders, and stand for a longer period of time.

These standards show how insensitive Walmart is in the condition of its present greeters with cerebral palsy, spina bifida (a condition in the spinal column), and other physical disabilities. The move disrespects the fact that these workers have been around working for decades. For them, a job at Walmart has provided extra earning to cope up with their daily needs, served as a source of pride and connection to the community where the physically incapacitated received acceptance.

A Walmart greeter was nationally implemented since the 1980s by Sam Walton. Before, the main role of this particular employee is to wait at the front door of the store and offer a warm ‘hello’ to all shoppers who enter. The position is considered to be a big part of the company’s identity and became one of its recognized hallmarks as the years went by. In 2016, Walmart redefined their roles, adding responsibilities such as helping with returns, checking receipts and maintaining the cleanliness of the store’s façade.

Although the company confirmed that it is striving to place greeters into other jobs in the company, still the disabled workers are worried. According to NBC news, a greeter named Donny Fagnano, 56, who has worked at Walmart for almost 21 years said he had cried after a manager at the store in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania called him into the office last week and informed him of the sad news that his job is over.

Fagnano who expressed that he likes working than sitting the whole day has spina bifida. He was one of the many employees who was being offered a severance package but wanted to stay on Walmart even if that meant cleaning bathrooms instead.  

Now Walmart, which claimed that it still adheres to its principle, received backlash from customers who rally around some of its mostly-visited chains around the country. The word spread first in social media then dominated local and national news outlets which resulted in numerous demands from customers who called the company to complain. Thousands of people signed a petition, and those who are in far areas of the country used Facebook to show support.

Facebook created groups such as “Team Adam” and “Save Lesley,” in hopes of giving the employees, especially those physically handicapped, a fair shake and will be offered a position in the company.

The ‘greeters’ issue prompted at least three complaints to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as, federal lawsuit in Utah indicating a violation of the state law by discriminating the disabled. Moreover, under federal law, employers must provide “reasonable” alternatives to workers with disabilities.

As of the moment, Walmart did not disclose how many disabled greeters could lose their job but confirmed that they would extend the deadline indefinitely until the company finds other positions well-suited for them.

However, some workers said that they had been discouraged from applying for other jobs which the company countered indicating that they have already made offers to some greeters including those with physical disabilities and will continue to do so in the coming weeks.

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