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Walmart faces second U.S. lawsuit this week over treatment of workers

FILE PHOTO: Employee arranges shopping carts in front of the logo of Walmart outside a store in Monterrey

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Walmart Inc was sued on Thursday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency's second lawsuit this week accusing the largest U.S. retailer of discrimination against workers with disabilities.

The EEOC said Walmart illegally demoted Calvin Hagan for missing too much work at a Raleigh, North Carolina store because of seizures caused by his generalized convulsive epilepsy, and then illegally fired him for violating its attendance policy.

The lawsuit was filed three days after the EEOC sued Walmart for firing Adrian Tucker, a deli worker in a Statesville, North Carolina store, because she had too many "unauthorized" absences related to her Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel condition.

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Walmart did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Hagan's case. It has said it does not tolerate discrimination and takes allegations of workplace discrimination seriously.

Hagan began working at the Raleigh store in June 2012 as a cashier, and rose to become a general merchandise support manager.

The EEOC said Walmart demoted Hagan to deli sales associate in April 2018, one year after his seizures began, and fired him four months later after a supervisor had warned him to "watch" his absences.

It said the seizures caused Hagan to lose consciousness, bite his tongue or have bowel movements, and the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer should have accommodated his requests for time off.

"Employees with disabilities should be able to seek medical treatment without fear of losing their jobs," EEOC lawyer Melinda Dugas said in a statement.

Both lawsuits accused Walmart of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, and sought back pay and punitive damages.

The case is EEOC v Wal-Mart Stores East LP, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina, No. 23-00160.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Edward Tobin)