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Walmart’s disabled employees at risk as ‘store greeters’ phase out announced

Walmart is in damage-control mode over a plan to phase out store greeters, a shift that closes off an employment niche that had frequently been taken by disabled workers.

The retail giant, the biggest employer in the United States, has revamped the position of “People Greeter” into “Customer Host” and added new tasks, such as handling customer refunds, scanning receipts and checking shopping carts.

But the shift, undertaken as a cost-efficiency measure, has prompted a huge public backlash.

Supporters of Jay Melton, a Walmart greeter in Marion, North Carolina, who has cerebral palsy, took to the Internet to protest the change.

The new role requires “the ability to stand for long periods of time, lift 25-pound parcels, check receipts, write reports and help with product loss investigations,” said an online petition.

“Jay’s disability doesn’t allow him to do these things. So that means that he could soon lose his job when the changes go into effect.”

The petition drew more than 18,000 signatures, many impassioned.

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“Jay Melton and other greeters like him are the reason I enjoy shopping at Walmart and the only reason I support a large corporation such as Walmart (opposed to shopping on Amazon),” wrote one petitioner.

On Thursday, Walmart Marion announced that Melton had accepted a new position as “Self-Checkout Host.”

In a letter to stores posted to Walmart’s website, Walmart US President Greg Foran said company policy gives all employees 60 days to apply for other posts when their role is changed.

That timeframe would be extended for employees with disabilities because “we recognise these people face a unique situation,” Foran said.

“And because not all disabilities are the same, each case requires a thoughtful solution.”

The company has already made offers to many greeters for other jobs and expects more reassignments in the weeks ahead.

“Let me be clear: If any associate in this unique situation wants to continue working at Walmart, we should make every effort to make that happen,” Foran said.

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