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Walmart sued by US agency over test that screened out disabled workers

FILE PHOTO: Walmart's logo is seen outside one of the stores in Chicago

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) - The U.S. agency that enforces workplace discrimination laws said on Wednesday that it had sued Walmart Inc over allegations it fired hourly workers with disabilities who could not pass a computer-based test.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said that the test, which Walmart began administering nationwide in 2015, had no connection to workers' job duties, in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Arkansas.

The commission said Walmart gave newly-hired workers up to 180 days to pass the "knowledge assessment," and that they could take it up to three times. But Walmart failed to provide accommodations for the test to workers with disabilities as required by federal law, the EEOC said.

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The EEOC filed the lawsuit on behalf of two Arkansas women who said they were fired by Walmart after failing the test. One is deaf and the other has intellectual disabilities, according to the lawsuit.

Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart, said the testing program was discontinued several years ago. When it was in use, workers were presented with pop-up notifications advising them of accommodations, he said.

The EEOC has filed a series of lawsuits in recent years accusing Walmart, the largest private U.S. employer, of discriminating against workers and job applicants with disabilities.

The agency last week accused Walmart of failing to provide interpreters for deaf employees, and has filed at least four other lawsuits this year on behalf of individual Walmart employees. Walmart has denied wrongdoing in those cases.

In 2021, a federal jury in Wisconsin awarded $125 million to a former Walmart employee who the EEOC said was fired because she has Down's syndrome. A judge lowered the award to $300,000, the cap on damages under the federal law banning discrimination against workers with disabilities.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Grant McCool)