SELINSGROVE — All Adam Catlin wanted when a manager at Walmart Selinsgrove Supercenter told him his greeter position was being eliminated was another role at the store that would accommodate his cerebral palsy.
On Friday, Catlin got his wish.
Catlin, 30, of Middleburg, accepted the store’s offer to move him from the front of the store to the self-checkout area effective April 26. He’ll serve as a host there, encouraging customers to use the self-checkout stations. The job’s demands mimic what’s asked of him as a greeter.
“I am very happy and thankful,” Catlin said outside Walmart during a noontime break Friday. “I am also very thankful for our community and all they have done to support me.”
As Catlin explained his hope that his situation would help others in similar predicaments, well-wishers shouted from a passing car: “Hey, Adam! Go, Adam!”
“I didn’t want to leave here so I’m really happy,” Catlin said. “I’m happy to say there’s a solution to it. It’s off my chest now.”
Catlin and his mother visited Walmart Friday morning and reviewed the job offer. He was scheduled for a day off but was put on duty as a greeter at the store’s market entrance.
“Adam is super excited to stay in his workplace, with his work family and management that he loves so much,” his mother, Holly Catlin, wrote on Facebook.
“They have adapted to meet his needs,” his sister, Amber Piermattei, said.
The move by Walmart ends, at least in Catlin’s case, nearly two weeks of public scrutiny of a corporate decision to eliminate greeters in favor of customer hosts — a new position tasked with more physical demands like lifting up to 25 pounds, climbing ladders and keeping a close watch for shoplifters. The resolution for Catlin signaled the potential outcome for other disabled and senior citizen employees who couldn’t fill the new role or any other position with the employer.
Catlin, a 10-year employee with Walmart, learned Feb. 16 that he would likely lose his job. Word spread fast on social media after his mother, Holly Catlin, wrote about the situation on Facebook. Her call for community action in support of her son came quick.
Social media users blasted the company for its decision and shared Catlin’s post nearly 10,000 times. The attention spawned a social media group supporting the Catlin family and a petition on change.org that has more than 95,300 signatures. Local media coverage gave way to regional and national coverage, inspiring or coinciding with similar stories about other greeters with disabilities who also face the prospect of losing their jobs.
Walmart reacted by offering Catlin a new job and pledging to act judiciously in ensuring accommodations are exhausted for disabled employees who want to stay on with their stores after the greeter positions are eliminated.
“We are so thankful for the amount of support we got from across the nation,” Holly Catlin said. “Especially the support we got from our own community. People say there is a lot of bad int he world but let me tell you all there is also a lot of good. Thank you all.”
Late Thursday, Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart’s U.S. stores, wrote in a memo to store managers: “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.
“In terms of the associates with disabilities who are transitioning out of the People Greeter position, we recognize these people face a unique situation. And because not all disabilities are the same, each case requires a thoughtful solution,” Foran wrote. “For that reason, we are looking into each one on an individual basis with the goal of offering appropriate accommodations that will enable these associates to continue in other roles with their store.”
Valued member of team
Kory Lundberg, a corporate spokesman, said Catlin will become one of the thousands of self-checkout hosts employed at Walmart stores across the country.
“We’re excited Adam has accepted a new role in his store allowing him to continue serving as a valued member of the team. We’re pleased that many other greeters are also finding new roles in their stores and choosing to stay with the company. We’ll continue to work in the coming weeks to identify potential solutions for other affected associates,” Lundberg said.
Walmart began in 2016 to shift front-of-store roles, eliminating greeter positions at specific stores in favor of customer hosts. The host position is more physical and the associated tasks are an impossibility for Catlin, who has cerebral palsy, and others like him.
Walmart’s decision sparked a backlash in the Valley and gained momentum nationwide as coverage of the issue broadened. The company announced late Thursday that it would extend indefinitely the initial 60-day transition period it gave affected employees.
Advocates for the disabled said Walmart is making the right move.
“By rethinking their action, Walmart is now opening the door to actually help individuals realize their full employment potential,” said Cheryl Bates-Harris, senior disability advocacy specialist at the National Disability Rights Network.
Piermattei said Holly Catlin was told by corporate management that positions for disabled and senior citizen employees impacted by the job shift are under review.
“Hopefully, they will also keep their jobs,” Piermattei said. Catlin was one of three greeters — joining Jay Melton in Marion, North Carolina, and Mitchell Hartzell in Hazel Green, Florida — all of whom have cerebral palsy, that have accepted jobs in self-checkout.
“This was a major-league botch,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy, adding that Walmart should have foreseen the public’s reaction.
“Someone finally woke up,” Johnson said. “Hopefully they’re now woke and they’ll fix this thing the right way. … The good news is it’s reversible.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.