The EEOC and Atkins sued the employer for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) alleging failure to accommodate and discriminatory discharge claims. The jury found in favor of Atkins on both claims and awarded $27,565 in back pay and $250,000 in compensatory damages. The trial court awarded Atkins' lawyers $445,322 in attorney fees. The 6th Circuit affirmed. EEOC v. Atkins (6th Cir 08/07/2018) [PDF].
Atkins, a diabetic, had two incidents while working as cashier, requested an accommodation of keeping orange juice at her register, but the store manager told Atkins it was against company policy. The manager failed to explore any alternatives and never relayed the matter to a superior. Eventually, Atkins took some juice from a store cooler and drank it before paying for it. And the employer fired her for violating the employer's ant-grazing policy.
The court found that the jury had ample evidence to conclude that the employer failed to provide Atkins reasonable alternatives to keeping orange juice at her register.
Regarding discriminatory discharge, the court explained a company may not illegally deny an employee a reasonable accommodation to a general policy (anti-grazing policy) and use that same policy as a neutral basis for firing her. Hence "failure to consider the possibility of reasonable accommodations for known disabilities, if it led to discharge for performance inadequacies resulting from disabilities, amounted to a discharge solely because of the disabilities."