The nation's largest retailer, Walmart, is facing a laundry list of allegations in a lawsuit stemming from the sexual abuse of a woman with developmental disabilities by her 72-year-old co-worker, who later pleaded guilty to "gross sexual imposition."
The suit alleges that Jamie Wells, a sales associate at a Walmart in Akron, Ohio, was subjected to "unauthorized, non-consensual and harmful sexual and physical contact" by Francis Cameron, beginning in 2005, when Cameron was 72.
In court documents, a clinical psychologist described Wells as "essentially a young child who is physically an adult," but who lacks "any 'adult' aspect or functioning, intellectually, academically, emotionally, or socially." Court documents state Wells' "ability to 'consent' can only be viewed as similar to the degree of 'consent' that could be provided by a young child who is manipulated into behavior by an adult."
Walmart allegedly became aware of "inappropriate conduct" between Cameron and Wells in 2005, the same year the abuse began. In response the retailer censured Wells with "a Decision-Making Day Coaching" -- a reprimand that entails a probationary period -- but allowed Cameron to continue to work at the store.
Five years later, in 2010, Walmart was again made aware of the abuse when Wells herself "reported Cameron's sexual harassment to Wal-Mart managers." Three days later, Cameron was fired.
But in January of 2011, less than a week after Cameron complained that he'd been wrongfully terminated, Walmart also fired Wells.
The lawsuit, filed on Jamie Wells' behalf by her mother, Barbara Wells, contains a dozen individual complaints, including assault, battery, discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination, among others.
Walmart did not immediately return a request for comment.
Unfortunately, situations like Jamie Wells' are all too common. Studies have concluded that disabled men and women are at least four times as likely to be sexually abused as the general population. In one California study of 95 adults with developmental disabilities, researchers found that 83 percent of the women and 32 percent of men had been sexually assaulted.
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