A Walmart customer is seeking class certification for a lawsuit filed over the big-box chain’s designated COVID-19 shopping hours.
In a motion late last week with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, plaintiff Cheketa McKnight-Nero — on behalf of immunocompromised shoppers — asked a federal judge to certify a class action lawsuit that accuses Walmart of discrimination. In June, McKnight-Nero filed a proposed class action to represent a class of customers who oppose Walmart’s practice, introduced amid the pandemic, of relying on security guards to determine who is eligible to enter stores during the hours set aside for elderly or vulnerable individuals as well as people with disabilities.
According to the plaintiff, who is diabetic and has a rare type of blood cancer, a Walmart guard did not allow her to shop during the company’s dedicated COVID-19 shopping hour at a store in Washington, D.C., after he allegedly did not believe she was immunocompromised.
“Plaintiffs allege that Walmart’s policy of posting door guards or hired security to determine who is immunocompromised or not is an unfair policy that disproportionately impacts those with unseen or non-visible disabilities and increases their risk of harm by shopping with the general public,” McKnight-Nero said in the motion on Thursday.
The lawsuit includes claims of negligence, plus violations of both the D.C. Human Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the filing, the plaintiff wrote that her action aims to “ensure that retailers like Walmart provide [immunocompromised customers] equal opportunity to shop safely.”
Walmart has moved to dismiss the lawsuit. It argued, according to court records, that McKnight-Nero’s experience was “regrettable” but does not qualify as disability discrimination.
In a statement to FN, a Walmart spokesperson wrote, “Walmart strives to treat all customers with respect and dignity. We deny the allegations in the complaint, plan to defend the company and have asked the court to dismiss the case.”
As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States in March, Walmart introduced a senior shopping hour every Tuesday before outposts open — from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. — for shoppers aged 60 and older as well as people who might be more vulnerable to the virus. (Walmart’s pharmacies and vision centers will also be open at this time.) The retailer has also invited high-risk customers to shop through drive-through, no-contact curbside pickup and mail delivery services.
Last week, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company announced that it would extend the operating hours at more than 4,000 of its 4,700 locations across the country by an hour and a half following months of reduced business hours. Its closing time has been moved from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and the chain explained that the extension would afford customers “greater options to shop for the food, medicine and supplies they need.”
This story has been updated with a statement from Walmart.