Walmart Greeter With Cerebral Palsy Gets New Post as Jobs Phase-Out Controversy Roils On

March 1, 2019 Updated: March 1, 2019

A North Carolina man with cerebral palsy will continue to serve as a Walmart greeter following a public outcry to save his job.

Jay Melton will keep working at the Walmart Supercenter in Marion as a self-checkout host, the corporation announced in a post on Facebook.

“We are so excited to announce that Jay has accepted a position as a Self-Checkout Host. Jay has been a part of our store for the last 17 years and is well known throughout our community. Please help us congratulate Jay on his new position!”

We are so excited to announce that Jay has accepted a position as a Self-Checkout Host. Jay has been a part of our…

Posted by Walmart Marion on Thursday, 28 February 2019

‘So Very Excited’

The man’s family confirmed Friday to The McDowell News that Melton would go on working at the store.

“He has accepted the position and he’s so very excited to be able to continue working at Walmart,” she told the publication.

The man’s father Jim Melton said his son is “as happy as a pig in a mud puddle.”

“I think this is wonderful,” Jim Melton added.

Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg told The McDowell News that Melton will work the same hours and get paid similar to what he earned as a greeter.

“We’re excited to having him stay at this store,” he said from the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. “Jay will transition to his new job in late April (after April 26th). He will stay in his greeter role until then.”

Walmart greeter Jay Melton
Jay Melton’s father said the Walmart position was his son’s first job. (Facebook/Walmart Marion via CNN)

From ‘Greeters’ to ‘Customer Hosts’

Melton feared he would lose his job after the Walmart Corporation last week moved to phase out its familiar blue-vested “greeters” at some 1,000 stores nationwide.

Walmart told greeters around the country their positions would be eliminated on April 26 in favor of an expanded, more physically demanding “customer host” role. To qualify, they will need to be able to lift 25-pound packages, climb ladders and stand for long periods.

That came as a blow to greeters with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and other physical disabilities. For them, a job at Walmart has provided needed income, served as a source of pride, and offered a connection to the community.

Now Walmart, America’s largest private employer, is facing a backlash as customers rally around some of the chain’s most visible and beloved employees.

Melton, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, feared the new requirements would put him out of a job.

His family took to social media to share his story, drawing widespread support for Melton and putting pressure on Walmart, the world’s biggest private employer.

Walmart Store
A Walmart store. (Alex Edelman/AFP)

An online petition drawing attention to his plight and calling on Walmart to “let Jay Melton keep his job” garnered over 18,000 signatures as of Friday and heartfelt messages of support.

“I moved to Marion 15 years ago,” wrote Angie B. in a comment. “I have seen Jay’s face every time I have walked into our local Walmart. Has always had a smile on his face and makes you feel welcome. It’s funny how the people with the least opportunities shine the brightest.”

The petition stressed how much Melton loves his job—”what Jay loves most is watching Carolina basketball, going to church, and working at Walmart”—before offering an explanation for why Walmart’s policy shift could push him out a job.

“Walmart has decided to change its “greeters” into “customer hosts.” This means that the job now requires the ability to stand for long periods of time, lift 25-pound parcels, check receipts, write reports, and help with product loss investigations. 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.”

Broader Concern

As word spread of Walmart’s policy shift, first on social media and then in local and national news outlets, outraged customers began calling the company to complain. Tens of thousands of people signed petitions. Facebook groups sprang up with names like “Team Adam” and “Save Lesley.”

With the U.S. unemployment rate for disabled people more than twice that for workers without disabilities, Walmart has long been seen as a destination for people like Combs. Advocacy groups worry the company is backsliding.

“It’s the messaging that concerns me,” said Gabrielle Sedor, chief operations officer at ANCOR, a trade group representing service providers. “Given that Walmart is such an international leader in the retail space, I’m concerned this decision might suggest to some people that the bottom line of the company is more important to the company than inclusive communities. We don’t think those two are mutually exclusive.”

Walmart has not disclosed how many disabled greeters could lose their jobs as the company redefines roles as it strives to compete with the likes of online retailers like Amazon.

The company said that after it first embarked on the policy of replacing greeters with hosts in 2016 at more than 1,000 stores, 80 to 85 percent of all affected greeters found other roles at Walmart. It did not reveal how many of them were disabled.

Last week, Walmart told greeters they would have the customary 60 days to land other jobs at the company. Amid the uproar, however, the company has extended the deadline indefinitely for greeters with disabilities.

“We recognize that our associates with physical disabilities face a unique situation,” Walmart spokesman Justin Rushing said in a statement. The extra time, he said, will give Walmart a chance to explore how to accommodate such employees.

Walmart said it has already made offers to some greeters, including those with physical disabilities, and expects to continue doing so in the coming weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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