News Article Details

Vancouver Walmart greeter with cerebral palsy laid off due to policy change

Columbian - 2/23/2019

Feb. 23-- Feb. 23--John Combs has cerebral palsy and travels in a wheelchair. But he's still able to work as a Walmart Supercenter greeter at Southeast 192nd Avenue, a job he loves and has held for more than two years.

The 42-year-old Combs, however, was told this week that he will be laid off because of a new company policy that is affecting disabled Walmart greeters nationwide.

The policy requires people in his role to be able to stand for an eight-hour shift and be able to lift up to 25 pounds. The company's policy change has shocked and infuriated Combs' family and supporters who thus far have been unsuccessful in obtaining details from the retailing giant about the change.

A manager in the store told Combs on Monday his job had been reclassified and that he would be laid off April 25, said his sister, Rachel Wasser of Vancouver. The news upset her brother.

"He's devastated," Wasser said. "Pretty tearful. He's asking me, 'What am I going to do? Will I just sit at home every day?' He's devastated."

A Walmart spokesperson issued a statement Friday to The Columbian saying it's possible Combs could be reassigned within the store. Neither Wasser, nor the "job coach" assigned to Combs by a job placement agency, however, say that possibility has not yet been mentioned to Combs.

"We recognize this is a unique situation, and it will take time to explore possible solutions," the Walmart statement says. "As we phase the greeter role out of this store over a 60-day period, our store management and local human resource teams will be in regular contact with John as he explores every available option to him.

"We're committed to always providing our customers with a positive and safe shopping experience, and we know there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to staffing our entrances and serving customers. We look at the data from each store individually to structure the appropriate door coverage."

Other news reports about the policy shift have said Walmart has added responsibilities for store greeters, such as helping with returns, checking receipts to help prevent shoplifting and keeping the front of the store clean.

Walmart's policy shift has garnered attention in other parts of the country. Several news outlets reported this week about a greeter with cerebral palsy who works at the Selinsgrove, Pa., Walmart who'd been told his job would be eliminated. The same outlets reported Friday that Walmart officials subsequently told him there might be another job, but gave no guarantees.

Combs is in a wheelchair and has limited use of his left hand and has difficulty speaking, Wasser said.

She said her mother, Debra Combs, worked for years to find a job for her son eventually finding the Vancouver office of the job placement agency Employers Overload. A supervisor in the Vancouver office, one of about a dozen in Oregon and Southwest Washington, initially agreed to be interviewed about Combs' situation but later declined.

Combs arises at 6 a.m. to prepare for his 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at the Walmart Supercenter, 430 S.E. 192nd Ave., Wasser said.

The news of the layoff comes at a difficult time for Wasser and her family. Her father, John Combs, died Aug.1 at 70 after a lengthy illness. Her father "was very, very proud of John for working at Walmart," Wasser says, noting the family gathered in October to celebrate John Combs' two-year work anniversary.

And Wasser's mother, Debra Combs, is under hospice care at her Salmon Creek home, as she deals with terminal lung cancer.

John Combs lives in the Salmon Creek house with his mother. Wasser lives with her husband in a house next door.

"We want him to keep his job at Walmart because he loves it," Wasser said. "He says, 'Everybody knows me, I know everybody there.' He feels very accomplished."


(c)2019 The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.)

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