ADA and EEOC … I sue U; U pay me.

In this week’s news that makes you shake your head. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and victim won a $227,000 jury verdict against Dollar General for its firing of an employee who drank a $1.69 orange juice to prevent a diabetic incident and then paid for the beverage after stabilizing herself.

According to EEOC’s suit, the cashier, an insulin-dependent diabetic, told her supervisor she was a diabetic and requested on several occasions that her supervisor allow her to keep juice near the register to prevent a hypoglycemic attack. At trial, the cashier testified that her supervisor told her that Dollar General did not allow employees to keep food or drink near the register. Although Dollar General had an accommodation policy that could have allowed the cashier to keep juice near the register, the employees, including management at the Maryville store, did not know about the policy.

While alone in the store one day, the cashier drank orange juice prior to purchase, in violation of Dollar General’s “grazing” policy, in response to symptoms of a hypoglycemic attack. As soon as the medical emergency passed, the cashier paid for the bottle of orange juice that cost $1.69 plus tax. Later, the district manager and loss prevention manager appeared in the store to address inventory shrinkage and fired the cashier after she admitted to drinking orange juice prior to purchase. The store fired the emp­loyee even though it knew she drank the orange juice because of her diabetes and that she had requested to keep juice near the register.

The jury returned a verdict last Friday afternoon for EEOC and the victim, awarding the former cashier $27,565 in back pay and $250,000 in compensatory damages.

An EEOC attorney involved in the case stated, “This case highlights another employer who failed to train its employees on the reasonable accommodation requirements under the ADA. Dollar General represents one of the largest variety retailers in the country. Yet it failed to ensure that its employees and management staff knew about its reasonable accommodation policy. It was as if Dollar General had no policy at all. Instead of accepting responsibility for its inaction, Dollar General argued the employee did not need an accommo­dation. We hope this jury verdict sends a message to its employers, train your employees on the reasonable accommo­dation requirements under the ADA.”

If you ever find yourself in a situation in which you believe that you have been injured or wronged during the course of your employment, reach out to the attorneys at Hernandez Law Firm first. We have the experience and knowhow to help you in your employment issues. Sit down with us and let us help you understand your rights and obligations under the law.

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