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Wal-Mart to Air Deaf Discrimination Information

Wal-Mart to Air Deaf Discrimination Information

Editor: You may remember the brouhaha a while ago regarding a discrimination case brought by two deaf Arizona men against Wal-Mart. As a result of that case, Wal-Mart agreed to undertake certain actions, which it seems they have failed to complete. As part of the settlement of the resulting contempt action, Wal-Mart will air commercials in which the two deaf men discuss their experience. Here’s the press release from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).


Beginning this week, and for the next two weeks, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates in Arizona will air a 60-second commercial in Phoenix and Tucson featuring two young men who are deaf telling about their experience filing a lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and later working for Wal-Mart. Jeremy Fass and William Darnell will talk about their experience using American Sign Language with a voice over in English. The commercial will also be closed captioned for the hearing impaired.

The commercial is required as a part of the settlement of a contempt action reached last month between the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Fass and Darnell, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Fass and Darnell were represented by the Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL). The TV ads will air at least once a day between 7:00-9:00 a.m. and 5:00-10:30 p.m.

At the end of the commercial, the telephone numbers for voice and TTY calls for both the EEOC and ACDL are listed so that viewers who have questions about their rights, or believe they have been subject to discrimination, may call for assistance.

“Jeremy and William were proud to be a part of the commercial,” explained Rose Daly-Rooney, ACDL attorney. “They have always been committed to advocating not only for themselves but also for other people who are deaf who want to work at Wal-mart and be treated fairly.”

Katherine Kruse, an EEOC trial attorney who worked on the case, said: “A TV advertisement was part of the sanction originally imposed by the court. The advertisement will help educate the public about discrimination against people with disabilities, with a focus on the barriers faced by applicants and employees who are deaf.”

Fass and Darnell brought suit against Wal-mart in 1998 for its failure to hire them. That lawsuit was originally settled in January 2000. Wal-Mart, however, failed to fulfill the obligations to which it committed in settling the action, including performing adequate training, revising policies, conducting meetings to recruit people who have disabilities, and taking other measures required by the settlement to prevent discrimination in the future.

To obtain Wal-Mart’s compliance, the EEOC and ACDL brought contempt proceedings against the retailer in April 2001. On June 13, 2001, U.S. District Judge William Browning found that Wal-Mart was in contempt and ordered the company to pay fines, comply with provisions of the decree on training and policies, and air a commercial describing the experiences of Fass and Darnell and explaining how other persons can get help if they believe they have been discriminated against. The parties settled that contempt action and the court entered an Amended Consent Decree on September 19, 2001. In the Amended Consent Decree, the parties agreed to the advertisement that will air.

A list of the specific dates and times the commercial will air on ABC, NBC, and CBS is available by contacting the ACDL. A copy of the Amended Consent Decree is available at www.acdl.com.

Arizona Center for Disability Law
Rose Daly-Rooney, Staff Attorney
Leslie Cohen, Exec. Director
(520) 327-9547 (voice)
(520) 327-7754 (TTY)

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Katherine Kruse, Trial Attorney (602) 640-5029
Mary Jo O’Neill, Sup. Trial Attorney (602) 640-5044
C. Emanuel Smith, Acting Regional Attorney (602) 640-5029
TTY: (602) 640-5072