Vancouver Walmart greeter hopes to keep his job

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VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — A local Walmart greeter with cerebral palsy is hoping he can stay on as an employee after lay off notices were sent out.

John Combs said the company is changing his greeter job into something that’s too physically demanding for him.

Walmart told greeters around the country last week that their positions were being eliminated in late April in favor of an expanded “customer host” role that involves not only welcoming customers but also helping with returns, checking receipts to help prevent shoplifting and keeping the front of the store clean. The position requires hosts to be able to lift heavy weights, climb ladders and do other tasks.

At first, Combs was scared and thought he’d lose his job, but Combs and his sister said the company is working on a way to keep him on the team.

“People just love him,” Combs’ sister, Rachel Wasser said. “I have gotten so many messages from people that say, ‘I go do my shopping when I know John is going to be there so I can go him see him.'”

So when a notice arrived saying his greeter job would be reclassified into something with more responsibilities and demanding physical requirements, Combs was devastated. 

“I have to pay for my rent and my dog,” he said. 

Wasser said their mom has terminal cancer and Combs’ job is part of the family stability.

“That was kind of a carpet being pulled out from under us,” she said. 

After that notice was sent, Walmart provided hope. After a lot of negative feedback to the announcement, Walmart said it is working with employees with disabilities on their options. 

Spokesperson Justin Rushing provided the following statement:

“As we strive to constantly improve the experience for our customers, we will need to adjust roles from time to time. We’ve recently shared our plans to change the responsibilities of the people greeter role in some stores and that involves associates with disabilities in some cases. We recognize that our associates with physical disabilities face a unique situation.  With that in mind, we will be extending the current 60-day greeter transition period for associates with disabilities while we explore the circumstances and potential accommodations, for each individual, that can be made within each store. This allows these associates to continue their employment at the store as valued members of the team while we seek an acceptable, customized solution for all of those involved.”

The family said they’ve been told Combs could be reassigned to a new position. In other states, at least three employees with cerebral palsy were offered jobs in self-checkout. 

Combs hopes to stay on and continues to hope to save enough money for a 4-wheel drive wheelchair. 

Most importantly he’s looking forward to working for the team he’s grown to love.

“His Walmart store is an amazing group of people,” Wasser said. “They really are.” 

“WalMart is half of my family,” Combs said. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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