Tag Archives: Walmart

Accommodation on the job for amputees draws media attention

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A federal court in Nebraska recently ruled in a case about accommodating a wheelchair bound amputee on the job.

Two recent cases involving Walmart and accommodating workers with amputations have made the news recently.

The EEOC sued Walmart for allegedly failing to hire a Texas woman with an amputated hand as a stocker. Here in Nebraska, a federal district court denied summary judgment in a failure to accommodate claim involving an amputee who used a wheelchair and requested not to wear a long butcher coat because it got stuck in his wheelchair.

The Texas and Nebraska cases both turn on arguments about the failure of Walmart to engage in an interactive process to accommodate a disability. The Nebraska case also emphasized that this interactive process need not be formal which is a point I have made before.

The longer I practice workers’ compensation and employment law, the more I despise bureaucracy. Reading “The Utopia of Rules” by David Graeber in 2015 crystallized my thinking on the topic. In early 2017, I wrote a post about just cutting management out of the accommodation process altogether if possible. I wrote that such conduct would be protected as a protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act. (NLRA)

Well, thanks to Neil Gorsuch’s 5-4 majority opinion in Epic Systems, helping to accommodate the disability of a coworker may not be a protected activity under the NLRA. For now at least, federal courts don’t require that employees have to exhaust administrative remedies within what amounts to a private administrative state in order to accommodate a disability. Courts seem to give more legal power to an individual alleging individualized discrimination rather than employees acting collectively about the terms and conditions of their employment.

In short, employees have some real legal rights on the job so long as they acting as individuals within the frame of anti-discrimination laws. In order to act collectively employees either need to engage in direct action like strikes — which is a whole other topic —  or in the political arena.

 

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in ADA, amputees, Nebraska, Walmart and tagged , , , , .

A More Dangerous And Demanding Future For Retail Employees?

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Walmart announced last week that it started a pilot program where store employees will deliver packages from stores on their way home from work. If this practice is adopted company wide and adopted by the retail industry as a whole, it will change the nature of retail employment.

As written about on this blog before, delivery and warehousing jobs tend to have more physical injures than traditional retail clerk jobs. If employee delivery becomes a regular part of retail employment, then retail jobs should become more hazardous. One positive part about Walmart using employees to make deliveries would be the fact that those employees should be covered by workers’ compensation if they are injured while delivering packages. Fed Ex has faced legal challenges for misclassifying their delivery drivers as independent contractors. Uber, who has also faced challenges on how they classify their drivers, also has a package delivery service.

Delivery jobs tend to be more physically demanding than retail clerk jobs and can also subject employees to DOT requirements. If package delivery becomes an expected part of retail employment, retail jobs will have more physical and occupational requirements. This could mean in the future that retail jobs may not be a fallback option for workers from other physically demanding occupations who become unable to do their old jobs because of injuries or health problems.

The rise of online shopping has greatly reduced the number of stores of traditional retailers. This decline in so-called “big box” stores lead to a parallel reduction in retail employment. Jamelle Bouie pointed out in Slate that this collapse in retail employment has harmed women, people of color and urbanites who tend to work in retail. Bouie points out, I think correctly, that retail employees tend to be disrespected in part because of gender and race. Bouie also states the decline in retail employment has received much less attention than declines in employment in other sectors like manufacturing and mining that tend to employ more white males.

In contrast to traditional retail workers, delivery drivers tend to be paid better. UPS delivery drivers seem to enjoy a certain level of prestige, respect and even a mystique within the workforce. (11) Maybe some of that respect will rub-off on retail workers if they become delivery employees.  On the flip slide, competition from largely non-unionized and lower-paid retail workers may cut into pay and benefits that delivery drivers and their unions have fought for over the years.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workers' Compensation, Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , .

A High-Tech Update on a New Black Friday Tradition

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OUR Walmart has been protesting working conditions at Wal-Mart on Black Friday since 2011. This year, OUR Walmart will forego protests and instead promote the WorkIt app, which uses IBM’s Watson technology to inform Wal-Mart employees about their rights at work.

Walmart is warning employees against using the app. If Walmart were to terminate an employee for downloading the app, this would likely be an unfair practice under the National Labor Relations Act, and it would likely be unlawful retaliation under Nebraska law as well.

The positives of WorkIt

WorkIt uses technology to allow workers to push back against management. Traditionally, this has been the role of labor unions. But the application essentially cuts out that middleman. Organized labor has had great difficulty organizing at Wal-Mart, but if the app serves some of the main functions of a union, it is a benefit for Wal-Mart employees.

Nebraska’s junior senator, Ben Sasse, decided that he would moonlight as an Uber driver in Nebraska a few Saturdays ago. In a press release, he touted the benefits of the “disintermediation” of the workforce. Disintermediation is a fancy term for cutting out the middleman. Uber cuts out the middleman by connecting drivers directly with those needing a ride through an app. Of course, Uber thinks that the user of the app can cut out the need for things like fair-employment protections, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation coverage for their drivers as well. Most employee advocates have concerns about this relationship. If nothing else, the WorkIt app shows that technology is a tool to expand workplace protections even as the use of technology erodes workplace protections.

Possible downsides to WorkIt

Apps and other computer programs are only as good what the programmers input into the programs. Wal-Mart employees probably do know Wal-Mart policy, but other employee-protection laws, especially workers’ compensation laws, vary from state to state. The WorkIt app may not be able to help people with state-specific questions.

Furthermore, Wal-Mart isn’t under any obligation to follow its own policies in a non-union workplace. Failure to follow those policies could be evidence of wrongful conduct, but it isn’t unlawful per se. In short, knowing company policies can be helpful, but management has wide discretion in how it interprets those policies. That’s where having a union steward or representative is helpful in a dispute with management, as the steward will have a better idea of how those policies have been interpreted in the past.

Finally, while an app is helpful, it somewhat undercuts the idea of collective or concerted activity, which forms the basis of unionization. Instead of reaching out to other employees about common concerns, just relying on an app could reinforce the strategy of taking individual grievances to Wal-Mart through what they call their “Open Door Policy.” Apps can reinforce the atomized, overly individualized relationship that people have with technology and their employers.

But in the wake of the recent elections, some veteran union organizers are calling for a radical rethinking of how to organize workers. WorkIt may be part of that new tool kit to organize workers in the 21st century. Apps are already part of workers organizing for rights. In China, workers are using the WeChat app to organize independent unions. Hopefully U.S. workers will start using apps like WorkIt and existing apps to protect themselves in the workplace.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in employment law, Workers' Compensation, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , , , , .