Walmart Fired Me While I Recovered From Sepsis. Now, I’m Fighting Against Their Abusive Attendance Policies.
By Ernest Paschal II
My name is Ernest Paschal II and I live in South Carolina. I worked at Walmart as an Asset Protection Door Host. At the age of 22 years old, I was injured in an on-the-job car accident when I was working for a different company that made me paraplegic. Later on in 2019, I had to have my left leg amputated due to a medical condition. Many people assume that I’m not able to work because I am disabled, but that is just not true. I work harder than most people, and I do my job well.
When I was a door host, I loved my job. People were so happy to see me working, and I loved talking with people and getting to interact with them. Before I got sick, I received positive feedback while doing my job. Last summer, I began to feel ill while in my wheelchair– I could hardly stay conscious and I began to feel nauseous. I quickly told my manager that I wasn’t feeling well, and they sent me home. I was so scared for my life because I could hardly drive home. After a few visits to the doctor, I later learned that I was septic, a life-threatening condition.
While I was recovering from the sepsis, I called into the store to let my managers know what was happening, but I couldn’t help but notice that I was still being given points for my absences. At Walmart, employees receive points for leaving work early, arriving to work late, or being absent, even if those absences are due to a medical condition. Employees who receive “too many” points miss out on pay raises and promotional opportunities, and can even be fired. Often, employees receive points regardless of the reason for their absences, including for absences caused by medical conditions or caregiving obligations that qualify for legally-protected time off under federal, state, and local law.
“It’s hard to believe that Walmart was punishing me for something out of my control–my health.”
It’s hard to believe that Walmart was punishing me for something out of my control– my health. My managers wouldn’t waive the points even though they knew I was out recovering from sepsis, and instead they told me to contact an outside company that handles leave of absence requests from Walmart workers. I contacted the outside company that same day, but a few days later I was only told that I wasn’t eligible for medical leave. Shortly afterward, I started another accommodation request, but when I called in to get a determination, I learned Walmart had fired me already! I pleaded with my managers and HR to reconsider and give me a chance to work with accommodations, but they ignored me.
This whole situation has made me very upset because I feel like Walmart has kicked me while I was down. I can’t help that I got so sick, and Walmart fired me for being sick even though I was a great employee. I live in a very small town and without my job at Walmart, I have had to deliver DoorDash whenever I can to provide for my family. The income is nowhere near enough. What’s worse is that I was fired right before the school year started and Christmas, and it has been hard making sure that my five children have what they need to succeed and thrive.
I contacted A Better Balance’s free and confidential legal helpline because I want justice. What Walmart has done to me is not right– it’s hurt my pride and made me feel as though they don’t care about me, my health, or my family. With A Better Balance’s help, I’ve filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, challenging my termination by Walmart. It’s time that Walmart updates its abusive attendance policies to ensure that workers like me can fully participate in the workforce and take care of their health needs.