Josefina Hernandez had worked for Walgreens for 18 years before she was fired in September 2008. Her crime: stealing a bag of chips. Walgreens had little concern for the employee's mitigating circumstances: an attack of hypoglycemia. And now America's largest drugstore chain faces a federal court lawsuit from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for discriminating against a disabled employee, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
According to the Americans with Disability Act, an employer must "provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer ('undue hardship')." In 2008, the Disabilities Act was amended to include diabetes.
Whether or not a $1.39 salty snack qualifies as undue hardship will now be under trial.
"They said they had a zero-tolerance policy," David Offen-Brown, an attorney with the EEOC, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Hernandez claims that she usually carried candy in her pocket, in case her blood sugar dropped dangerously low. But that day, Hernandez had forgotten to bring any glucose-boosting treats. She claims that she was going to pay for the chips as as soon as she could leave her cashier's post, but Walgreens fired her all the same.
"Accommodating disability does not have to be expensive, but it may require an employer to be flexible and open-minded," William Tamayo, the EEOC's region attorney in San Francisco, said. "One wonders whether a long-term, experienced employee is worth less than a bag of chips to Walgreens."
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