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ADA, FMLA fees reintroduced against Walmart



A federal appeals court has reinstated U.S. persons with disabilities and Family Medical Leave Act fees filed by a former injured Walmart Inc. worker who was fired after she refused an allegedly impossible alternative position.

Stefany Hazelett, who was an order refill at one of Walmart's distribution centers, which was a significant distance from her home, injured her foot at work in February 2015, according to Tuesday's decision by the 9th American Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco Stefany Hazelett v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

During her work-related temporary disability, Walmart offered Mrs. Hazelett a temporary alternative assignment. The form in which she chose the assignment contained an option to refuse the assignment, but provided that if she did, her benefits could be suspended or denied due to non-compliance.

"In short, Hazelett was injured at work, offered a (temporary alternative service) as her injury prevented attendance and then ceased due to the effects of her injury," the decision states.

It was stated that Hazelett & # 39 ;s disability prevented her from driving a motor vehicle and the temporary assignment would have required her to "report to work in the morning when no public transport, save a taxi, was available."

Ms. Hazelett was eventually discharged due to excessive absence the same day she requested family medical leave, the decision said.

Walmart used Memphis, Tennessee-based Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. to deal with its employees' compensation cases and its request for leave of absence, the court said, and Ms. Hazelett claims she did not first realize she had to communicate separately to both departments in Sedgwick, one for her workers' compensation claim and another for her leave. Sedgwick is not a party to the disputes.

Ms. Hazelett brought an action against the dealer at the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on charges of violating the ADA and FMLA and public order and FMLA retaliation. The court dismissed the case. Her accusations of violations by the ADA and the FMLA were reinstated by a unanimous panel court with three judges.

"The Court concludes that there are significant material facts regarding FMLA and ADA claims," ​​the decision states. There is evidence that: Hazelett called to work every day to report her leave; Hazelett left a doctor's note for a vacation period that covered more than 1

/3 of Hazelett & # 39 ;s leave; there was confusion about having to notify a company of her claim for compensation and her request for leave by having to contact two different departments within the company; and whether Walmart notified Hazelett in writing of any alleged deficiencies from her medical certification and allowed her to remedy the deficiency, the decision said.

"Over this confusion, Wal-Mart gave Hazelett an (temporary alternative duty) offer instructing that if she did not accept, she could lose her job and benefits.

" A reasonable member of the jury could conclude that Hazelett believed that she had to sign the form to keep her workers' benefits even though she could not commute to the light service offered.

"Furthermore, there are questions about essential facts about whether Hazelett failed to follow the policy and procedures before requesting leave, "and whether such a policy was ambiguous. The attempts she made to follow created questions about essential facts that would be decided at the trial," the decision states.
The verdict also said, “Seeing the evidence as the most favorable for Hazelett, she meets all the requirements of a prima facie case under the ADA, and for the purpose of this movement: she is disabled, she is qualified; and she was fired by Wal-Mart, "the decision said.

Possible accommodations were not discussed and were not offered either, the decision said. "There are questions about material facts regarding the possible housing options offered by Hazelett and whether there was a meaningful interactive process," the decision said, also restoring her ADA claim. FMLA retaliation requirements.

Walmart said in a statement, "We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit agreed that Walmart did not renounce Mrs. Hazelett for exercising her rights. We have thousands of employees who take time off and perform their jobs with reasonable housing. Walmart has lawsuits to comply with the ADA and FMLA, and we will continue to defend the company against the remaining claims.

Ms. Hazelet's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

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