Is it Legal? Fired Over a Bottle of OJ

Knee-Jerk Firing Leads to $250K Verdict for Cashier

Sept. 20,2016 by Tom D’Agostino

 

A national “small box” discount chain isn’t getting off cheaply for firing a diabetic cashier over a $1.69 bottle of orange juice. 

A jury found Dollar General liable for $27,565 in back pay and $250,000 in compensatory damages because the actions of managers in its Maryville, Tennessee,  store violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the cashier is dependent on insulin. She told her supervisor she was diabetic. She asked the supervisor several times if she could keep a bottle of juice near the register to prevent a hypoglycemic attack.

The EEOC – which ultimately sued the company – said Dollar General had an accommodation policy that could have allowed the cashier to keep juice near the register. But management at the Maryville store didn’t know about the policy.

The cashier testified at trial that her supervisor told her she couldn’t do that. One day while she was alone in the store, the cashier felt symptoms of a hypoglycemic attack. She drank a bottle of orange juice from the store before purchasing it to prevent the attack and protect the store.

As soon as her medical emergency passed, she paid for the juice. But when the district manager and loss prevention manager showed up later that day to address inventory shrinkage, they fired the cashier after she admitted to drinking the juice before paying for it.

In announcing the verdict, the EEOC said this was another case about employers failing to train their staff on the ADA’s reasonable accommodation provisions.

EEOC v. Dolgencorp LLC d/b/a Dollar General Corp., No 14-CV-441 (E.D. Tenn. jury verdict returned 9/16/16).

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