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Friday, March 14, 2014

The Old Food Guy

by Tommy Eden


David Moorman was the Wal-Mart Store manager of the Keller, Texas store and claimed to his regional HR manager that he was being called “old man” and "the old food guy" by his direct supervisor. Moorman says that the company took no action to stop his mistreatment.

About the same period of time, Moorman was diagnosed with diabetes. Moorman promptly informed the market manager and the human resources director of his diagnosis. Mooreman’s doctor instructed him to take a medical leave of absence for nine weeks, which leave Wal-Mart granted.  Upon his return, and in keeping with his doctor’s recommendation related to his diabetic condition, he requested a reassignment to a less demanding position as assistant store manager or store co-manager.

Wal-Mart failed to make Mooreman’s requested accommodation or enter into an interactive process as contemplated by the ADA for making a reasonable accommodation, according to Mooreman. A month later, Wal-Mart denied his request. Later Mooreman was terminated.

Mooreman then filed a charge under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and under the Americans’ with Disabilities Act (ADA) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC sought to conciliate the matter without success and this week filed suit against Wal-Mart on behalf of Mooreman in Federal Court claiming violations of the ADEA and ADA.

Common Sense Counsel: Supervisors who make statements such as those attributed to the Wal-Mart supervisor above, are what we in the management labor profession call “Managers with Their Hair on Fire”. These are people who engage in grossly inappropriate workplace behavior, or statements, but appear ignorant of their workplace impact. All the while, everyone else in the workplace acts as innocent bystanders waiting for the workplace pot to boil over. 

Do all you can to stay off the EEOC radar. It starts with having a legally compliant handbook, training your managers properly on nondiscrimination in all facets of your business, having the proper procedures in place when allegations of discrimination need to be timely and effectively investigated, and hopefully resolved internally. Where there is smoke the EEOC will sometimes fan the flames. Making statements such as those allegedly attributed to this Wal-Mart supervisor should be avoided. This is a lack of training or policy or both. Don’t be the employer of a manager with his hair on fire.

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and West Point, GA and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at teden@constangy.com or 334-246-2901.