A jury will hear the ADA claim of a diabetic cashier, fired for drinking life-saving juice from a store refrigerator

I imagine that this juice won’t be worth the squeeze.

A couple years ago, I blogged here about a case in which a national drug store store fired a diabetic cashier for violating its “grazing” policy. That is, she opened a $1.39 bag of chips, without having paid for it first. However, the cashier claimed that she needed the chips as a reasonable accommodation, because apparently she was suffering from an attack of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). A California federal court recognized that, in that situation, the employer may have a duty to accommodate. Then, the case promptly settled.

History repeats itself.

Fast forward two years.

Last week, in EEOC v. Dolgencorp, LLC, a Tennessee federal court ruled here that a jury will hear the Americans with Disabilities Act claims of a diabetic cashier, who twice committed grazing violations by taking bottles of orange juice from the store cooler without immediately paying for them, and for which she was fired.

An untrained supervisor.

Prior to taking the juice, the employee had informed her supervisor about her diabetes. The employer asked her supervisor if she could keep a snack or beverage near the register while she worked to prevent a possible hypoglycemic episode. However, the supervisor informed the cashier that it was against store policy to do so. Unfortunately, the supervisor did not know that she could excuse the cashier from the policy prohibiting food or drink at the register. Plus, the supervisor did not recall receiving training or instruction about defendant’s obligation to provide employees with reasonable accommodations for health conditions. For that reason, she did not tell the cashier to contact anyone else to discuss the accommodation request.

A catch-22.

On those instances in which the cashier violated the grazing policy, she was alone in the store, and could not leave her post to get juice from the break room. Therefore, on those two occasions, the cashier found herself in a catch-22: (1) Violate the grazing policy; or (2) violate the other company policy about leaving the store unsecured. Either way, she was doomed. Indeed, violating the grazing policy led to her termination.

Maybe, next time, better training.

The court’s opinion makes clear that the company had a policy on reasonable accommodations. Indeed, the court concluded that the cashier followed the procedures in place for requesting an accommodation. However, her supervisor was not prepared to address the request.

Don’t make the same mistake. Could this situation have been avoided with better supervisor training? Sure sounds like it.

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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