The EEOC has announced that they have filed a lawsuit against Dollar General for a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The specifics of the case, as stated by the EEOC, seem to point to a case of stupid HR.
At the Maryville, Tennessee store a cashier suffered from insulin-dependent diabetes. At one point, with customers at the counter, the employee started to feel the onset of a hypoglycemic episode. To avoid leaving the customers at the register she grabbed some orange juice nearby and consumed it to level her blood sugar. According to the EEOC she then paid for the OJ. She was fired for violating the company’s “grazing policy” which prohibits employees from consuming items prior to paying for them.
The EEOC says the employee had told her supervisor of her diabetes and had requested she be allowed to keep her own orange juice at hand. She was denied that opportunity. After being fired the employee claimed disability discrimination. The EEOC investigated and tried to settle with Dollar General through the pre-litigation conciliation process. Dollar General refused and now according to a statement “The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting Dollar General from discriminating against employees with disabilities, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for the former employee.”
If the case is indeed as the EEOC alleges this seems to me to be a case of “stupid HR.” Clearly the woman has diabetes. Clearly the company was notified of her disability. Clearly the accommodation was a reasonable one, after all how unreasonable is it to allow the employee to keep a bottle of juice at her work station?
Of course, there may be and probably are other circumstances. Perhaps this was not the first time she had violated the “grazing policy.” Perhaps she was a habitual grazer. Had she been warned before and this was now the “straw that broke the camel’s back”? There may certainly be other extenuating circumstances that the company will bring to its defense. I hope it includes lots of documentation.
I think the lesson for us as observers is you need to be willing to make reasonable accommodations. You need to have the interactive discussions with employees. If the facts, as stated by the EEOC, are true I feel this will be a slam-dunk win for the EEOC. It sure comes across as a case of “stupid HR” to me.
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