Disabled Walmart greeter speaks out after being fired for too many transit-related late days

Kristine Solomon
Style and Beauty Writer
Brandi Hanvold often operates her electric wheelchair through snow and rain to be punctual for her job as a Walmart greeter. (Photo: KIRO-TV)

For one Washington woman, being a Walmart greeter is more than a job — it’s her purpose. But last week, the employee was told she was being terminated after almost 11 years of service for accruing too many late days.

Brandi Hanvold, who uses a wheelchair, lives in Washington’s rural Pierce County, where transit options are limited, according to Seattle news station KIRO-TV. Despite her best efforts, Hanvold has had 15 absences in the past six months — and according to Walmart’s corporate policy, employees are allowed only eight and a half. Hanvold said she felt empty and heartbroken when she learned she was losing her beloved job.

“I said, ‘So this is what I get after 11 years? Loyalty?'” she told KIRO-TV. “I felt like I had no hope.”

Her tardiness was not for lack of trying. Hanvold relies on a local car service called Beyond the Borders, but the company has limited funding, and cars are often late.

“She has the earliest pickup,” Hanvold’s mother, Val, said. “And I love them. And I don’t wanna sound bad against them. They do a great job with what they’re funded for.”

When Hanvold is desperate, she said she drives her electric wheelchair miles down highly trafficked roads to get to the Walmart in Bonney Lake, even enduring treacherous conditions. 

It gets scary in the snow and in the rain because [the wheelchair] is electrical,” she said. “If something somewhere should get wet, and I’m crossing the 410 [highway], it could die, and so could I.”

In fact, Hanvold almost did lose her life in 1991, when she was involved in a terrible car accident and was ejected 100 feet, landing on her head. Though she miraculously survived, she sustained a traumatic brain injury that affected her speech, processing and mobility. This limits her employment opportunities, though Walmart is known for its inclusive hiring practices. In fact, her mother said she was thrilled when Walmart hired Hanvold.

“I’m still thrilled with Walmart,” she told KIRO-TV. “The fact that they hire people like Brandi, for a mom, is a wonderful, wonderful thing, so I sing their praises. But to terminate her like they did without any warning, they’ve taken away her life.”

Hanvold confirmed the loss. She said being a Walmart greeter gave her a much-needed sense of purpose.

It’s my social life. It’s what I do,” she said. “I feel like I go and hang out with friends. It makes me feel good.”

But a representative for Walmart told Yahoo Lifestyle that Hanvold’s tardiness was addressed multiple times by her supervisor. The retail chain shared a statement that read, in part: “We’re sensitive to this situation, but like any company, we have an attendance policy that helps ensure our customers are being taken care of and that our associates are protected from regularly having to cover other’s work duties. This policy requires that all of our hourly store associates be on time and work their scheduled shifts and manages against excessive absences.” 

Additionally, the representative confirmed that Walmart was not aware of the extent of Hanvold’s traumatic brain injury and that each time she was offered to have a “parent or coach” present for sitdowns with her supervisor so she could “fully understand what’s happening,” she declined.

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