HOUSTON (FOX 26) — A new Walmart policy will eliminate greeters and replace those jobs with a new role called 'Customer Host' at some of its stores. The change has upset some of those employees with disabilities who said their employment options are already limited.
It's all about flashing a big smile and giving a warm Walmart welcome that greeters like Patti are tasked to do in their blue vests. Providing hospitality is something Patti knows she can do.
"We're the first person a person sees and the last person they see going out the door," said Patti.
Ever since she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, Patti has had to use a wheelchair or a walker to get around.
"I'm a widow and this has allowed me to be able to keep a little bit of independence and live by myself," said Patti. "Live on my own and pay my way and without this job, I have no income."
Instead, Walmart said the replacement role of 'Customer Host' requires employees to be able to move and lift at least 25 pounds, climb ladders, reach overhead or stand for long periods of time — basic tasks that just aren't possible for people like Patti who have a disability.
Patti said she and others received a notice of the company's policy change this week.
"None of the criteria handicap door greeters, which everybody that's a door greeter pretty much is a handicap person, could meet," said Patti. "So they informed us that our last day of service would be the 26th of April."
Employment attorney Sidd Rao said he believes the change could be means for legal action down the road.
"They're giving the sense that these people are no longer useful to the company apparently and they're being potentially discarded," said Rao. "And in terms of this having a disproportionate impact on a protected group of workers like older workers and disabled workers, it could definitely cause legal liability as well."
Patti said jobs for the disabled are already limited, and Walmart's new policy to replace her greeter position with more physically-demanding responsibilities means her future is uncertain.
"It means that there are going to be a lot of handicap people out there vying for the few handicap jobs that are available so that's very worrisome to me," said Patti.
Walmart released the following statement in response to its policy change:
As we strive to constantly improve the experience for our customers, we will need to adjust roles from time to time. We’ve recently shared our plans to change the responsibilities of the people greeter role in some stores and that involves associates with disabilities in some cases.
We recognize that our associates with physical disabilities face a unique situation. With that in mind, we will be extending the current 60-day greeter transition period for associates with disabilities while we explore the circumstances and potential accommodations, for each individual, that can be made within each store.
This allows these associates to continue their employment at the store as valued members of the team while we seek an acceptable, customized solution for all of those involved.