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After Catlin stays at Walmart, disabled Lewisburg greeter hopes for same

Daily Item - 3/7/2019

March 07-- Mar. 7--LEWISBURG -- Donny Fagnano worried for Adam Catlin after learning from early news reports that the Middleburg man with cerebral palsy could lose his job as a Walmart greeter at the Selinsgrove Supercenter.

Fagnano himself is a greeter at the Lewisburg Supercenter where he's worked for 21 years. The 56-year-old Lewisburg-area resident has spina bifida and like Catlin, can't walk or stand without an aid like crutches or a walker.

Unlike Catlin, Fagnano said he hasn't been offered a new role that would accommodate his disability as the Lewisburg location eliminates the greeter position as part of a larger corporate initiative to revamp front-of-store responsibilities.

"When it affected Adam, I thought, 'well, that don't affect me,' but it did," Fagnano said. "Walmart is my only income. ... If I had a choice between working and quitting my job, I'd rather work than collect Social Security."

Fagnano cried after he was called into a manager's office and informed that the store would phase out the greeter position, he said. He said he would accept the offer of severance pay but wanted to continue working.

"I thought I deserved better," Fagnano said.

A few days passed, he said, before he was approached by store management about job alternatives, including a photo lab position and clerk at the self-checkout station. He said his disability wouldn't allow him to perform those required tasks.

Fagnano said he offered to clean bathrooms.

A manager at the Lewisburg Supercenter declined to comment, referring inquiries to corporate headquarters. A spokesman said Thursday that store management would again discuss options with Fagnano.

"During our conversations with Donny last week, we offered him job options that could be done with the proper accommodation. Our understanding is that he might want to retire and take severance. Our local store management team will follow up with him to reiterate that we have available positions for him in the store," Kory Lundberg, Walmart spokesman, said.

Walmart began in 2016 initiating a shift from greeters to a more labor-intensive customer host role on a store-by-store basis. The new position requires associates lift up to 25 pounds, climb ladders and keep watch for shoplifters, among other tasks.

Amid mounting public scrutiny inspired by Catlin's story, Walmart altered its approach. The nation's largest retailer on Feb. 28 indefinitely lifted a 60-day grace period for affected employees to find a new job internally or accept severance pay, scratching an initial April 26 deadline.

Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart's U.S. stores, pledged "a thoughtful solution" for employees with disabilities who wished to remain with Walmart.

Catlin found resolution Friday when he accepted a position as a self-checkout greeter. The position is similar to the front-of-store greeter position and is less intensive than the host role and the clerk role at the self-checkout station.

Catlin's family said by speaking out, they hoped to help other Walmart greeters in similar situations. At least three other affected employees in Arizona, Illinois and North Carolina accepted a new role, according to published reports.

"If they offered what (Catlin) does, I would take it," Fagnano said. "I want to retire there."

Fagnano uses a wheelchair at work. He relies on friends to drive him to and from his job. He has family locally but lives on his own in low-income housing. At home, he keeps five name tags he's collected from his job over the years including one recognizing him as a 20-year associate.

Becky Seitz is one of the friends who give Fagnano a ride. She wrote a letter to Walmart's corporate office asking that they consider people with disabilities who could lose their jobs.

"He knows the whole store. He's been there 21 years. He's such a valuable asset to Walmart," Seitz said.

If Fagnano can't stay with the store, he said he'll look to find work at a fast food restaurant.


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