Walmart employees with disabilities could lose their jobs as the retailer changes its “store greeters” policy.
More than 1,000 store locations are replacing their greeters with an expanded “customer host” position, which will require employees to lift “25 pounds, clean up spills, collect carts and stand for long periods of time,” among other tasks, NPR reported. The policy change is scheduled to go into effect in April.
While the new position will include higher pay, it seems that the change will disproportionately affect people with physical disabilities.
Illinois resident Nathan Joerndt, who is currently employed as a Walmart greeter told 25 News he learned of the changes over the weekend and fears losing his job.
Joerndt—who has a rare developmental disorder called Williams Syndrome—has worked at the store as a greeter for 18 years. Due to his disorder, Joerndt experiences cognitive limitations and has difficulty with visual depth of perception, which will no longer meet the requirements for the position.
“I was hurt, I was devastated, I was angry. I’m scared,” he told 25 News.
NPR spoke with a total of five employees in Florida, Pennsylvania, Washington, Alabama, and Maryland either directly or through a family member, who expressed fear of losing their jobs over the new changes.
In Marion, N.C., thousands of local residents signed a petition demanding the company keep Jay Melton—a greeter with cerebral palsy who has worked at Walmart for 17 years—on board. “Jay makes me smile even on my worst days,” one person commented.
As a result of the policy change, Walmart is facing several complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in addition to a lawsuit, all filed by former greeters with disabilities who lost their jobs, NPR reports.
Walmart provided the following statement to Fortune: “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 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.”