As Walmart Inc. plans to eliminate its greeter position in some 1,000 stores by late April, store managers need to work diligently to find other jobs for greeters, many of whom have disabilities, says a public health expert at Washington University in St. Louis.
“While it is unfortunate that Walmart will be eliminating many of these jobs, it is a great opportunity to advocate for the employment of persons with disabilities,” said Jean-Francois Trani, associate professor at the Brown School who studies efforts to improve the well-being of persons with disabilities.
Walmart told greeters around the country last week that their positions would be eliminated later this spring in favor of an expanded, more physically demanding “customer host” role. To qualify, they will need to be able to lift 25-pound packages, climb ladders and stand for long periods.
Disabled workers who fill many of those jobs say they’re being treated unfairly by the decision.
“One of the key non-discrimination aspects of Title I ‘Employers’ Responsibilities’ of the Americans With Disabilities Act is the requirement to provide reasonable accommodations for employees and job seekers with disabilities,” Trani said. “One accommodation is to avoid having to carry heavy weight for someone with a mobility or physical limitation, for instance.”
There are many positions in a Walmart store, including positions such as customer adviser providing advice to customers, that could be filled by a person with disabilities, with or without accommodation, depending on their specific limitation, Trani suggested.
Such positions might require some training, which Wal-Mart should be willing to do.
“If greeters are no longer a requested position by customers, the company should think through training opportunities for greeters so that they become ready to fulfill different positions required by the company,” Trani said. “Persons with disabilities are like anyone committed to their company and their job; they are able to learn and adapt to new positions, especially when their company invests in their skills and shows support.”