March 4, 2019
Following more than a week of backlash from consumers and disability rights advocates, Walmart has pledged to make “every effort” to find other roles for handicapped workers slated to lose their jobs when the retailer eliminates the “people greeter” position at 1,000 stores in April, CBS News reports.
In late February, the discount stores began replacing greeters at its locations nationwide with what the company calls “customer hosts,” a Walmart spokesperson told the network news outlet. The newly created position requires employees to check receipts, help with product returns, and generally help with upkeep at the front of stores.
The disabled and the elderly—who number among other current employees in greeter positions—would struggle with the physical demands of the such job requirements, critics say.
Indeed, outraged customers and others in Walmart communities started online petitions, formed Facebook support groups; and called and emailed Walmart corporate to register their displeasure.
“This is a shameful day for the country’s largest corporate employer, and a slap in the face to thousands of veteran employees and others with physical disabilities who have given years of service to the corporation,” Kristi Branstetter, leader for OUR Walmart, Walmart associate. and member of worker advocacy group United4Respect, said in a statement.
OUR Walmart already has activated a network of 150,000 Walmart associates, according to a spokesperson for the group.
“Walmart’s actions—fueled by an uncompromising quest to slash costs, no matter the consequence — seem to be discriminatory, plain and simple. We see you, Walmart, and we’re not having it,” Branstetter continued.
After the greeter positions disappear at designated stores in April, Walmart originally said that employees would have 60 days to explore other jobs at the company. Now, Walmart has assured employees with disabilities that they can consider their options “indefinitely.”
“This allows these associates to continue their employment at the store as valued members of the team while we seek an acceptable, customized solution for all of those involved,” Walmart said in a statement.
Among those who are scheduled lose their greeter jobs is Adam Catlin, whose plight caught national attention in February after his mother, Holly, posted on social media that he would be let go by the Silinsgrove, Pennsylvania, store come April. However,Catlin was offered a new job March 1 by Walmart that he will be able to start once the change takes place, according to his mom’s latest Facebook posts.
When the greeter jobs are eliminated April 26, Catlin will be able to start a new job as a self-checkout customer host the following day. Catlin will be moving his seat 30 feet from his place at the door to the self-checkout line where he will encourage shoppers to use the service.
“We’re just very, very happy that they took another look at this and worked with us,” Holly Catlin said.
The 30-year-old Catlin has cerebral palsy and has worked at his Walmart store in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania for more than a decade, CBS News said. Catlin, who is legally blind and uses a walker, was previously offered jobs last week as a cashier or a photo lab assistant, neither of which he would have been able to do as he is legally blind, lacks the finger dexterity to count money, and can’t move around the photo lab in his walker.
Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart’s U.S. stores, said in a memo to store managers on February 28, “We are taking some specific steps to support” greeters with disabilities.” Walmart then released the memo publicly.
Acknowledging the change had “created some conversation,” Foran wrote: “Let me be clear: If any associate in this unique situation wants to continue working at Walmart, we should make every effort to make that happen.”
Research contact: @CBSNews