The Maine Human Rights Commission has sued discount store giant Walmart in federal court over its Skowhegan location’s refusal to allow an employee with an intellectual disability to have a set weekly schedule.
Last May, the commission found that managers violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Maine Human Rights Act when they failed to accommodate Michael Morin, 40, of Skowhegan, who has worked at that location for nearly 20 years.
Walmart and the commission failed to reconcile the matter, so the commission filed the lawsuit on Morin’s behalf in November in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta. Attorneys for the discount store chain moved the case to U.S. District Court in Bangor because Walmart’s headquarters is located out of state.
Augusta attorney Kristen Aiello of Disability Rights Maine represents Morin through his mother, Pauline Champagne of Skowhegan, who is his legal guardian. The lawyer said that the family is grateful the commission joined the lawsuit.
“It is a real head scratcher that 30 years after the passage of the ADA, Walmart would intentionally create a scheduling system that is in flagrant violation of the law,” Aiello said Friday.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages and a permanent injunction that would prevent Walmart stores from refusing to accommodate set schedules for disabled employees.
Randy Hargrove, a spokesperson for Walmart, said Friday that the company does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and grants accommodation to disabled workers.
“When our stores’ needs change, we often adjust associate schedules to meet those demands and our decision here was based on legitimate business needs,” Hargrove said. “We have taken this issue seriously and before this case was filed, attempted to resolve the matter with Mr. Morin and the Human Rights Commission. We will respond as appropriate with the court.”
Morin began working as a cart attendant at the store in 2001, according to the complaint. He earned raises and positive reviews of his work while on a set schedule until Walmart in 2019 moved to a computerized scheduling system designed to have workers at the store based on customer traffic.
That system did not allow employees to work less than four hours per shift or have set weekly schedules. Morin’s set schedule allowed him to work between three and 3½ hours per day, three days a week, the complaint said. Walmart denied Morin’s request for an accommodation, alleging that it was not reasonable to override the scheduling software for one individual.
Morin continues to work at the Skowhegan Walmart, Aiello said Friday.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers can deny requests for reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities if doing so creates an undue burden. The Maine Human Rights Commission found that Walmart’s denial of Morin’s request did not meet that criteria.
Correction: An earlier version of this report misspelled Randy Hargrove’s last name.