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June 19, 2001
Wal-Mart Must Air ADA Commercial
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ederal judge in Tucson, Arizona, has ordered Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to make a television commercial in which it admits violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.

U.S. District Judge William Browning made the demand - along with imposing a $750,200 fine on the company - after finding Wal-Mart in contempt of an earlier consent decree involving discrimination complaints brought by two deaf job applicants.

Wal-Mart officials said last week that they would ask Browning to reconsider his order. They maintained that their company, the nation's largest retailer, never admitted discrimination in settling a lawsuit brought on the applicants' behalf.

"Even if we are judged to have violated the consent decree, there were provisions of the decree that went beyond the ADA itself," Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz said. "So we're uncertain how the judge determined the ADA was violated."

The company was ordered to make a 30-second commercial and air it for two weeks on major Arizona stations, Wertz said, adding: "This was not something that had been discussed with us previously."

The commercial exceeded the demands of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Arizona Center for Disability Law, which had brought the contempt complaint, said Rose Daly-Rooney, a center lawyer.

"That's amazing," Daly-Rooney told the Washington Post-Los Angeles Times News Service. "I haven't heard of one like this before."

The agencies sued Wal-Mart for discrimination after Jeremy Fass and William Darnell applied for jobs unloading merchandise in the back of a Tucson store in 1995.

Neither man ever got a callback, even though Fass' mother, who worked at the store, knew they were hiring, Daly-Rooney said. When they inquired further, they were informed there were no jobs, she said.

The judge approved the consent decree Jan. 6, 2000, and Wal-Mart hired Fass and Darnell at $8 an hour and paid them $66,250 each in back wages and damages. The company also paid $57,500 in legal fees and costs to the prosecuting agencies.

Wal-Mart also hired a sign-language interpreter during a two-week training period for Fass and Darnell, as required.

But as the deadline on the consent decree approached, the agencies charged the company had not met its obligation to train supervisors on the ADA and had not inserted a sign-language interpreter into corporate training videos.

Wertz acknowledged Wal-Mart had been unable to meet the deadline for those requirements.

"But we felt that we had made a good-faith effort to satisfy all of the requirements of the decree and asked for an extension to complete the training," he told the news service.

To view a Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service article, click here.
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