As an HR consultant I often find that companies often provide the least amount of training to the one group of employees who most need it, supervisors. I am not talking technical skills I am talking people skills. Most people are promoted into supervisory positions because they are often technically talented. By giving them the title of supervisor in recognition of that technical skill we skip over the HR and people skills necessary to keep them from getting themselves and the company in trouble. This was a lesson that Dollar General paid almost $278,000 to learn.
Drinking OJ before you paid for it was a policy violation
On September 16 a former employee of a Dollar General was awarded the money stated above because of their loss in an Americans with Disabilities Lawsuit. The employee, according to attorney Charlene Barker, was a diabetic. She controlled it by giving herself insulin shots and drinking orange juice when a diabetic episode started to occur. She had asked to keep orange juice near the register where she worked but was denied because that was against company policy. On a couple of occasions, she felt episodes coming on, and unable to reach her own orange juice, she drank juice on display before paying for it. After recovering she paid for the material. According to Barker “During an audit, the Company learned that Atkins had violated the Company’s anti-grazing policy, which prohibits the consumption of merchandise without paying for it first. [the employee] was terminated.”
I am sure to those of you reading this that may seem like it was heavy handed in the punishment that was meted out. The EEOC agreed and a jury agreed. The company was found guilty of violating the ADA in not accommodating the employee and then retaliating against her by firing her.
You may be wondering what this has to do with supervisory training? It turns out, during the testimony it came to light that none of the employee’s managers or supervisors had ever been trained on handling ADA situations. They did not know the company had a policy on accommodation. They did not know that they had an obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation to this diabetic employee. Certainly letting her pay for the orange juice after she recovered would be considered a reasonable accommodation. Yet they did not know any of that.
For lack of training a whopping bill
The company learned a very expensive lesson. As Barker said in her summary “The jury award in Atkins is an expensive lesson for Dollar General and a reminder to employers that effective training of supervisory and managerial employees is critical to help ensure compliance with the ADA and other federal and state anti-discrimination statutes.”
Don’t assume that just because an employee has a title that they are automatically imbued with all the knowledge and capabilities they need to have to be both effective and provide the protection the company needs to have in their interactions with employees. Train them!