In EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., on behalf of Paul Reina—a deaf, visually impaired, and intellectually disabled, cart pusher—the EEOC sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (“Wal-Mart”) under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) for failure to accommodate Mr. Reina’s request to work with a “job coach.” Wal-Mart moved for summary judgment, which on December 18, 2018, a federal district court denied on the grounds that disputed issues of material fact remained as to whether Mr. Reina was a “qualified” individual and “whether allowing a permanent job coach was a reasonable accommodation.”
In 1998, Mr. Reina began working at Wal-Mart as a cart pusher. In 1999, Wal-Mart allowed Mr. Reina several accommodations, including the ability to work with a job coach. The job coach assisted in several ways, including watching for oncoming cars, helping Mr. Reina stay focused on tasks, prompting Mr. Reina to help a customer if a customer needed help loading their car, and steering longer lines of carts. Over the years, Mr. Reina worked with several different job coaches and, with their assistance, Mr. Reina’s performance ratings were generally positive.
Working with a job coach did not go without incident. In 2012, a shift manager reported an altercation between Mr. Reina and a job coach. Caught on tape, the job coach was seen physically abusing Mr. Reina. The police said the report was unfounded because there were no physical injuries. This incident, however, made Mr. Reina’s direct manager question Mr. Reina’s need for a job coach and asked Mr. Reina to provide medically supported information about his condition and reasonable accommodation. Mr. Reina’s physician confirmed that Mr. Reina needed a job coach to do Mr. Reina’s “seeing and hearing.” What happened after that is disputed. The manager claimed that he asked for more information but Mr. Reina denied that the manager made such request, instead telling him to wait to hear from him. Mr. Reina was not placed on a schedule or contacted and lost access to Wal-Mart’s job portal.