People come from across Snyder County, Pa., to shop at a specific Walmart in Selinsgrove — the one where Adam Catlin sits smiling at the front door for 32 hours a week. Some local kids, whom Catlin knows by name, have posed for pictures with him. When the store had a grand reopening, it was Catlin who cut the ribbon.
In many ways he has become the face of the store. But by April, the 30-year-old greeter, who has cerebral palsy, could lose his job.
On Sunday, a manager informed Catlin that the store had changed his job from “people greeter” to “customer host,” and the new title comes with different job requirements — such as standing for long periods, reading receipts, and lifting up to 25 pounds — that Catlin can’t perform, said his sister Amber Piermattei.
His family and thousands of others who have signed petitions in support are hoping that Catlin can keep his job. Because for him, it isn’t even about the paycheck.
“Going to work, for him, gives him a sense of self-worth,” Piermattei said Wednesday. “He’s interacting with people and doing his daily tasks and coming home with the check that he earned.”
Supporters from across the country latched onto Catlin’s story this week after his mother, Holly, posted on Facebook, writing: “I am sad and I am sickened to see what a huge blow this is to him. I am putting this out there to make all of you, his friends, that he has made in the community, know, to not expect his smiling face and heartfelt, booming ‘hello’ as you enter those doors in the future.” Her post was shared thousands of times.
Piermattei said Catlin, of Middleburg, is legally blind, cannot stand without a walker, and has little dexterity with his extremities. This means the tasks he’d be asked to take on, such as reading receipts, using a pen, writing reports, lifting items, and standing for long periods, would be virtually impossible.
She said that when Catlin asked the manager if there was another role he could fill in the store, the manager responded, “I don’t know what to tell you.” He was not offered severance, she said.
Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg said Walmart has expanded its “customer host” role in more than 1,000 stores nationwide in the last two years, adding more responsibility and pay.
In announcing the changes in 2016, Walmart executive vice president of central operations Mark Ibbotson said the corporation would use “data on safety, security, and shrink risks to guide us on how best to staff our entrances.” The new “customer hosts” are expected to assist in loss prevention and shoplifting investigations.
“Adam is a valued member of the team and part of what makes our Selinsgrove store special," Lundberg said, adding that Walmart hopes to find a solution to keep Catlin at the store.
Catlin’s sister said he could apply for government disability benefits, but work is about far more than the pay for Catlin.