A diabetic employee drank a $1.69 bottle of orange juice before paying for it, and got fired. A jury decided that the employer should pay $277,565 for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The details, according to the EEOC:
A federal jury has found in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in a federal disability discrimination lawsuit against the retail giant Dollar General, the federal agency announced today. EEOC had charged Dollar General with firing a cashier at its Maryville, Tenn., 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 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 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 it knew she drank the orange juice because of her diabetes and that she had requested to keep juice near the register.
The EEOC sued, and on September 23 a jury awarded the former cashier $27,565 in back pay plus $250,000 in compensatory damages.
All grocery stores I know of have a zero-exception "no grazing" policy, and for good reason. The point of this litigation is that the ADA still must be complied with.