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The tradition of being greeted at Walmart by "party people" dressed in blue will soon be changing in the country's stores.
Walmart officials confirmed on Wednesday that greeters, many of whom are disabled, will be replaced by "guest hosts". The hosts, part of the program launched in 2015 by the world's largest retailer, will continue to welcome customers, but they will have more physically demanding responsibilities.
"While we strive to constantly improve the experience of our customers, we will need to adjust roles from time to time," Walmart said in a statement to USA TODAY. "We've recently shared our plans to change the responsibilities of the home-buying role in some stores, which sometimes involves associates with disabilities."
The Associated Press reported that last week, affected employees were informed that their posts would be eliminated on April 26 for host roles. To qualify as a guest, they must be able to lift 25-pound packs, climb ladders and stand for long periods of time.
Walmart said it recognizes that people with physical disabilities face "a unique situation".
"With this in mind, we will extend the current 60-day transition period for disabled associates while exploring the circumstances and potential adaptations for each individual in each store," Walmart said in its release.
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Walmart has confirmed that it will replace host servers with hosts in some stores. (Photo: Kelly Tyko, USA Today)
Dealing with repercussions
Walmart founder Sam Walton defended the greeters program, which began in the early 1980s.
In 2015, Walmart launched a pilot program for guest hosts, which was expanded in May 2016, according to a business blog. The host is an associate who "greets customers, but also checks receipts if needed, helps with returns and helps keep entries clean and safe," Walmart describes in his blog.
Across the country, customers have begun to gather around some long-time employees.
In Marion, North Carolina, an online petition has been launched for Jay Melton to serve as supervisor for 17 years. Melton has cerebral palsy and can not walk without assistance, according to the petition, which has nearly 14,600 signatures.
"Jay's deficiency does not allow him to do much" homework job responsibilities, notes the petition. "It therefore means that he could soon lose his job when the changes come into effect."
Holly Catlin wrote a public article on Facebook about her son Adam Caltin, who had cerebral palsy and worked as a supervisor at the Walmart store in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania for nine years. The 18 February ticket was shared nearly 10,000 times and contains nearly 4,000 comments.
"You all know that Adam loves his job so much and does it with all his heart. He is looking forward to you and your family, especially your children. He seems to know them all by name, "Holly Catlin wrote. "He shines his ears when he talks about his colleagues and management. They are his family in his eyes. "
Walmart's change has prompted at least three complaints from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a federal lawsuit in Utah, alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Act. Under federal law, employers must provide "reasonable" accommodations for workers with disabilities.
Walmart officials said that after passing greeters to the hosts of more than 1,000 stores in 2016, 80-85% of all concerned greeters found another role at Walmart.
Walmart initially announced to the Greeters that they would have 60 days to get other jobs within the company, but the company has extended the deadline indefinitely for greeters with disabilities.
"This allows these associates to continue to work at the store as team members, while seeking a personalized solution that is acceptable to everyone involved," the company said in a statement.
Contribute: The Associated Press
Follow Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko
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