Company ordered to pay $277K in disability discrimination lawsuit

Employer failed to provide worker with reasonable accommodation

Posted September 22, 2016

A federal jury has found in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in a federal disability discrimination lawsuit against a retail discount store, the agency announced on September 19. EEOC had charged the company with firing a cashier at a Tennessee store because of her need to treat her diabetes.

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 the company did not allow employees to keep food or drink near the register. Although the company had an accommodation policy that could have allowed the cashier to keep juice near the register, the employees, including management at the Tennessee location did not know about the policy.

The agency reported that while alone in the store one day, the cashier drank orange juice prior to purchase, in violation of the company’s “grazing” policy, in response to symptoms of a hypoglycemic attack and to protect the store. 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 management knew she drank the orange juice because of her diabetes, and that she had previously requested to keep juice near the register.

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

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