Special needs workers say they were forced out from Walmart jobs
(FOX 2) - John and Joe Wirth are cousins and best friends, both with disabilities.
Up until last April they worked at the Troy Walmart store as greeters - but they say they were forced out. "It's kind of like a crush to your soul basically," said John.
For 12 years John took two buses to get to his job. "I just really liked putting a smile on people's faces," he said. "Because I figured if I put a smile on somebody's face, that would make their day."
Last April the 36-year-old with Cerebral Palsy says he was brought into a room by management and asked to hand over his vest and all the pins he earned. Then he says he was tricked into signing paperwork.
"He said I has to sign it, in order to get my paycheck," John said.
He says they wanted him to write that he was leaving voluntarily for another career opportunity - not true - but he was confused. Then it happened to Joe.
FOX 2: "Does it upset you that you don't work there anymore?"
"Yes, because of the money and the people," Joe told us.
In 2016 Walmart announced a reorganization that would eliminate the greeter position at an about 1,000 stores, many which are positions held by people with disabilities.
Instead, they would add a position they are calling "customer hosts." The catch is, that job requires more physical duties, like being to lift 25 pounds and climb a ladder.
"They absolutely took advantage," said Fred Wirth, Joe's dad.
Fred says they filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And greeters around the country are doing the same.
"He didn't expect a cake and a party but he expected something with a little more dignity than that," Fred said.
Whether the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act will likely be judged on a case-by-case basis.
But Fred says Walmart has a moral obligation here.
"Are you telling me they had no other opportunities for these people to do anything else in the store? The largest retailer in the world?" he said. "I'm having hard time with that." They've both applied for other jobs - but nothing yet.
"I have a girlfriend and I would like to take her out to dinner every so often and have fun," John said.
They miss the sense of normalcy and purpose - something that isn't easy to come by.
"It's the little things in life that make you happy," John said.
Many of these greeter jobs will be eliminated in April. Walmart released a statement to us: "greeters with disabilities will be given an extension before they are asked to leave" - while they explore potential accommodations for each individual on a case-by-case basis.
But this is something the Wirths say they didn't get.