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Wal-Mart: Low prices, lower morals

By: Sandy Pascual

In 1998 Jeremy Fass and William Darnell, two deaf Arizona residents, filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. for violating the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Wal-Mart was guilty of discrimination by refusing to hire Fass and Darnell because of their lack of hearing.

The lawsuit was originally settled in January 2000. However, by April 2001 Wal-Mart Stores Inc. still had not fulfilled the obligations that they agreed upon at the settlement – which included performing adequate training, revising polices, conducting meetings to recruit people who have disabilities and taking other measures required by the settlement to prevent future discrimination – causing the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to take action against them.

Finally in June of 2001, the U.S. District Court found Wal-Mart in contempt and ordered them to pay fines, comply with provisions of training polices and air a commercial describing the experiences of Jeremy and William explaining how other people can get help if they believed they were discriminated against.

It was thought that this would be the end of discrimination from Wal-Mart…

Last month Alyssa Weiller applied at a South Florida Wal-Mart and was turned down by the manager looking over her application who said, “Sorry, we aren’t hiring.” Yet the following week, the same Wal-Mart hired Weiller’s friend who had applied just two days after her.

Weiller, 21, was born with Usher Syndrome and since birth has had visual and hearing impairment.

“I was born with hearing loss and over the years I have lost more and my vision just started to go about two years ago. I mean I knew it would happen but I didn’t expect it to be a limiting aspect of my life, and that’s just not fair,” said Weiller.

There’s no single identifiable cause for Usher Syndrome. It’s just a large group of inherited genetic disorders caused by altered genes, which simultaneously combine both the hearing impairment and progressive loss of vision. Hearing loss usually happens at birth or during the toddler years, while the loss of vision normally begins around the ages of 15-20 years.

“I can’t say much because the trial is coming up soon, but I will say this: I understand that I can’t be hired to answer phones, I know I can’t hear on them very well, but with my glasses on I can see and everything else is functioning. Wal-Mart was just worried about the image they would have in the store,” said Weiller.

“Yes, I wear glasses and hearing aids, but I don’t see how that should affect my hiring. It’s not right how discrimination still exists. It’s really painful to know that the basis of others’ judgments of me is my disability and limitations [and] not my personality and intelligence. Don’t focus so much on what I have on my ears and face, focus on what’s in my head,” said Weiller.

If you feel like you have been discriminated against, contact these organizations:

· U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
TTY 1-800-669-6820

· U.S. Department of Labor
TTY: 1-877-889-5627

0 0 131 06 September, 2003 Money, World September 6, 2003

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