CLEVELAND - Walmart's plan to change the role of its greeters has led some workers with physical disabilities to worry about their futures.
Last week Walmart told more greeters at stores across the country that their jobs will be eliminated in April, continuing a move it started in 2016.
Greeters will be replaced by the more physically demanding "customer host" position, which has added responsibilities. In addition to greeting customers, customer hosts will be required to lift 25 lb. packages while assisting with returns.
Facing public backlash, Walmart said it is working to place greeters in other jobs with the company, but greeters with disabilities are worried.
"When you do have limitations, you try to find ways to get outside of those and that's what a lot of us disabled guys, I hate to call myself that, but guys in chairs, or with cerebral palsy or whatever they might have, this really is the only way we can do something to feel gainful and meaningful," said former Walmart greeter Freddy Davison, who uses a wheelchair. "When those guys lose their job, it's taking away everything."
Davison, who was beloved for singing to veterans at the Chardon Walmart store, said he was fired last month after missing work for two days due to health reasons.
Davison said similar absences were excused in the past and he wonders if the looming job change for greeters was another motive for his termination.
"I thought clearly it was a mistake because it just doesn't fit the Walmart I know, the company or the people I work with, I mean, it's a family kind of place," Davison said. "What's happening isn't at all in keeping with the core values of Walmart that I agree with."
Walmart said historically 80% to 85% of its greeters affected by the change have stayed with the company in the customer host role or another role. The company said it recognizes that workers with physical disabilities face a unique situation and it will extend the deadline for them to find a new Walmart job.
"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," a company spokesperson said in a statement. "This allows associates to continue their employment at the store as valued members of the team while we seek an acceptable, customized solution for all those involved."
Walmart said it has already made offers to some greeters, including those with disabilities.
Davison said he's fighting to get his job back.
"I'm hoping to get my job back because I know I love it there and I know the people like me there, too," he told FOX 8.