Disabled greeter fired for clocking in late after lunches

Wal-Mart reviews case

Matt and Jessica Wood live in Bayfield with their two sons. Matt Wood, who has a brain injury, has been a popular greeter at the Durango Walmart. Friends and family are advocating for Wood who recently lost his job for performance issues. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Jessica Wood

Matt and Jessica Wood live in Bayfield with their two sons. Matt Wood, who has a brain injury, has been a popular greeter at the Durango Walmart. Friends and family are advocating for Wood who recently lost his job for performance issues.

A Bayfield man who suffered a brain injury in 2005 and has been working as a greeter at Walmart in Durango was fired Monday, setting off outrage among those who know him.

Matt Wood, who took the job in 2008, was fired from his position for not clocking in on time after lunch breaks, said Traci Barnes, Wood’s mother.

Family and friends said Wood deserves a second chance.

They said Walmart officials should have notified his wife about the problems involving his timecard, because she is his representative and is best suited to eliminate any distractions causing his unwanted behavior.

The retail giant may be in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act in providing “reasonable accommodations” for handicapped employees, some say.

Kayla Whaling, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said the corporation takes these cases very seriously and takes time to be thorough in investigating the matter.

“We are currently looking into the situation further, and we’ll handle it appropriately once we know more,” Whaling said.

Reports began circulating Friday on social media that Matt Wood had been rehired, but Whaling said those reports are false, although his reinstatement is a possibility.

Nadine Barber, who advocated on Wood’s behalf, forwarded a screen shot from Durango Walmart’s Facebook in which the store said it had offered Wood his job back. The post reads:

“Sometimes we have to take a step back and look at the situation from another perspective. Our current policy exists with everyone’s safety in mind and we understand there could be some room for interpretation. While we understand (a manager’s) intentions were good, at the time we believed there were some additional safety concerns. That being said, we have offered him his job back and welcome him back to the store.”

No one interviewed for this story knows specifically who posted the statement.

Jessica Wood, Matt’s wife, said she is frustrated with Walmart’s lack of communication. She said the management team should have met with her before taking such drastic actions. The Walmart team knew of Wood’s challenges and that accommodations needed to be made, Jessica Wood said.

“The two biggest things that we wanted were that he be able to revolve his work schedule around the bus, which they were very good at,” she said. “And that I, as his wife and representative, be notified whenever anything needed to be discussed regarding him.”

The family had good relations with former managers, she said, but changes occurred and eventually communication was lost.

New managers cited problems with Wood’s time management. Jessica Wood removed his Kindle and cellphone to avoid distractions, she said.

After taking that action, a manager said he was doing a good job, and people loved him, she said.

“I was completely blown away and shocked when he got home on Monday and told me he didn’t have a job anymore.” his wife said.

Matt Wood didn’t take the news lightly either.

“To him, it felt very personal and disappointing, because he does try and loves his job,” she said.

Barnes, is advocating on behalf of her son and his desire to help provide for his family.

“He’s trying to do the best that he can,” she said.

In 2005, during his junior year at Utah Valley University, Wood was involved in a car crash that left him with severe brain damage. He was majoring in computer science and had been married to his wife, Jessica, for about 10 months, Barnes said.

Despite the doctor’s prediction, Wood recovered from his coma and was not left in a vegetative state, Barnes said.

Now living in Bayfield with two sons, the Woods both work to provide income for their family and pay for rehabilitation expenses.

Matt Wood helps make house payments, Barnes said.

Wood lost his disability income for working too much, said Jessica Woods, and the loss of his income from Walmart has been stressful.

She said she is grateful to the community for the support it has given her and her husband. Matt and Jessica Wood have been contacted by a representative from Wal-Mart’s corporate office saying it is investigating the matter.

The corporation is deliberating whether Matt Wood will be reinstated, Jessica Wood said.

vguthrie@durangoherald.com

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