Store Clerk With Mental Disability Fired For 'Stealing' 20 Cents

Kyle Dowie fired 20 centsKyle Dowie worked at the Hy-Vee supermarket in Urbandale, Iowa, for 25 years. His job was menial; he handled the cans and bottles brought in for recycling credits. But as a 43-year-old man with a mental disability, Dowie was happy, until he was fired last November for trying to cash in 20 cents of credits that the manager claims were not his, reports the Des Moines Register. Last week a complaint was filed on his behalf with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Early last November, Dowie redeemed $3.75 of bottles brought from home, along with two ten cent chips dated from September. According to Dowie's 72 year-old mother, Jean Ann Johnson, who drove him to and from work everyday, Dowie would sometimes pick up the credit tokens left in the machine, in case those customers returned.

Although the money spat out by those machines isn't actually Hy-Vee's -- the store is reimbursed for all recycling credits by the Iowa government -- it's apparently against the rules for employees to cash-in found credits.

The store's operations manager, Curt Sills, accused Dowie of theft, and fired him, according to the complaint. Dowie was allegedly written up for the same offense three times before, but the most recent time was eight years ago.

Dowie knew that cashing-in those credits was wrong, his lawyer, Brooke Timmer, told AOL Jobs. "They're not his. They're not his own cans." But she says he was confused at the time, and wasn't sure if the receipts were left in the machine, or were his from sometime before. Dowie has the mental capacity of a 14 or 15 year-old.

"I am mentally retarded," Dowie said in a statement, "but Hy-Vee did not take that into account when ending my employment over 20 cents."

Mental disabilities are covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, which means employers with 15 or more employees must provide "reasonable accommodation" to the person's disability, as long as it doesn't result in "undue hardship." Timmer believes that by firing him, Hy-Vee failed to offer "reasonable accommodation."

The job "was his lifeline," Johnson said. "It's nasty, it's sticky, it's gross. It's probably one of the worst jobs there," adds Timmer. But still, "he absolutely loved his job. It really gave him a sense of self-worth."

The Des Moines Register points out that there's something suspect about the whole incident. "If a person is terminated from Hy-Vee for cause, we would not recommend them to another Hy-Vee store," Ruth Comer, a Hy-Vee corporate spokeswoman, told the newspaper. But Dowie's manager told him that he would help him find a job at another Hy-Vee, and in fact went so far as to call one up.

Johnson believes that the store was just trying to dump her son from its payroll; after 25 years, he was making $13 an hour and had four weeks of vacation a year. If he took a job at another Hy-Vee, he would be earning minimum wage with no benefits, according to Johnson.

It's "one of those cases that just gets my blood boiling," Timmer told the Register.

In 2009, Hy-Vee was awarded the Des Moines Disability Services Award for the store's commitment to hiring and retaining employees with disabilities in the Des Moines area.

On Tuesday, Hy-Vee's corporate office announced that the store would be rehiring Dowie. The store said in a press release that "while it was within our right to dismiss Kyle," the attention the story had received had led "many individuals to mischaracterize our company."

"We believe it is in our best interest and Kyle's best interest for him to rejoin Hy-Vee," the statement concluded. Timmer said over email that Dowie hasn't yet decided whether to accept the company's offer, which is for a different position at a different store. She also claims the company is absolutely wrong when it said it was within its rights.

"Kyle's firing violated both the Iowa Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disability Act," she wrote, and while she and Dowie are open for some kind of resolution, they're going forward with their discrimination complaint.



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1266 Comments

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joe

They should fire the A$$ that fired him.

February 03 2012 at 12:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Larry Alexis

It just seems a bit extreme to fire him over this. There is WAY more to the story than meets the eye, there has to be. I think it has EVERYTHING to do with how much he was making. In my experience working at a grocery store he was making a whole lot of money. Probably more than the manager. The manager was probably told to cut payroll and was looking for an excuse to fire him. I am sure the corporation was in on it too.
It is all about the money.

February 03 2012 at 12:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Annette Hammond

I think they should give him his job back(if he still wants it) Give him a raise,more vacation days.And GIVE him all the receipts that are left behind.

February 01 2012 at 6:45 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Sultry

To Redd816, Clearly the only idiot on this page is the person who thinks they know someone to the point of saying what that person would do in a given situation. First of all If I were in the mood to bend over and pick up a quarter, I would indeed leave it at the service desk. What they chose to do with it is up to them. I have broken things in stores and taken the item to the desk to pay for it. Not hide it or quickly run from the Isle like I was never there like so many do, Way back before cellphones If there were money in the public phone I was using, I would drop it back into the phone. Either you chose to do the right thing or you don't , and even though the amount this man stole is pathetic and petty, It is still employee theft he had been warned 3 times about. Now, I don't have a clue what retail operation you work for, Don't really care, But I will say with conviction most of the big boy retailers would fire you and the employee( s ) you allowed to keep found anything. Is it okay if a bank teller keeps finding and keeping change from the public area coin sorter?

January 30 2012 at 7:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sultry's comment
Larry Alexis

Really? You really do put money back in a pay phone? What a moron. Also I don't remember everything I was told NOT to do 8 years ago so I imagine he does not either. I really think you are working for the company or are the manager that fired him just trying to "save face"

February 03 2012 at 11:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
petersonentvt

The guy was fired because he was making $13 an hour and had 4 weeks a year of vacation pay. Some idiot in accounting decided lets fire this guy and replace him with a minimum wage guy that has no vacation pay. This was purely a financial decision on the stores part. It happens to workers all the time in this country and probably in other country's too. Is it fair no but it happens and it is how most businesses think. The 20 cents was just an excuse. In this case since the guy is handicapped it will probably cost the store big time in the end. In trying to save a buck Hyvee costs themselves a ton of money in bad publicity and future sales in the store. In this guy I say yeah for the little guy and I hope he wins sadly if he wasnt disabled he probably would have a case. Corporations use and abuse their workers all the time and get away with it - in this case even if they win the discrimination suit the corporation lost money in sales and legal fees which serves them right. In the old days people could go to work for a company and stay their entire life but now thanks to poor business practices and greed virtually no one ends there career working where they started their career.

January 28 2012 at 2:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to petersonentvt's comment
Sultry

I absolutely agree with everything you said 100%, but you left out the fact of it still being theft. You know a lot of people don't see it as theft and think because of the amount it is okay, or should be overlooked. To those I say if a similar question has been before you in a job interview, you though you excelled in, and you have answered the way you have here, Now you know why you didn't get the job. One last thing Peteronentvt, In the old days, This guy would never have been hired.

February 06 2012 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sultry's comment
ilenedan2

How was it theft? The store is automatically reimbursed by the state for all cans that were redeemed, including the ones associated with those tokens, so if they are claiming those tickets belonged to them, they are collecting twice. The tickets didn't belong to them any more than 20 cents dropped on the floor by a customer do. And since he didn't see who left the tokens behind, it's not as though the employee could give it back. Was it company custom to collect all tokens left behind and give them to charity or did they just appropriate them for themselves? As for this guy not being hired in the past, yes, you ae indeed corect. Back in the good old days you wouldn't be hired even if you could do your job and do it well if you were mentally disabled like this gentleman, or otherwise handicapped, or even, in many stores or businesses, if you were Black, or Jewish, or Hispanic or female, or.... Ah, the good old days. I can see you are just longing for them!????? The store offered a very begrudging offer of reimployment or I would suggest to him that he just take the job back and let it go, but as it is, they might just be planning to refire him in the future when the scrutiny stops.

January 30 2013 at 5:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
rogerrobert1942

if some one would find it ok what bs

January 28 2012 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
zzyxx

the store was waiting for an excuse to fire him. he had too much vacation and pay.

January 27 2012 at 4:18 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
tcoll10489

He was told he was not allowed to cash in left receipts. It would be one thing if the store then donated the left receipts to a charity but no they pocket it. Its not the same as taking money when cleaning someones car at a car wash as mentioned by one poster. The person at the car wash drives away with his money. The store plain and simple used this as an excuse to hire someone with no benefits and at a lower salary. Offer him the same job back. Give him a raise and publickly apologize. I love when they say we were within our rights. SHAME ON THEM, no heart.

January 27 2012 at 8:50 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tcoll10489's comment
Sultry

You said it all with the following: He was told he was not allowed to cash in left receipts.

He was told the same thing 3 times. I think the mental capacity of 14 to 15 knows exactly what they are doing and right from wrong. What the store chooses to do with left tickets is their business not an employees or consumers. If everyone had what it takes to own or run a business they would, Not sit on the sidelines without an ounce of accountability telling others how and what they should do. Petty theft and employee pilferage is a serious problem in the workplace. Can't say the rules don't apply to you because your retarded.

January 27 2012 at 2:00 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Sultry's comment
redd816

Clearly you are an idiot. Twenty cents does not compare to the chopping of a child. I DO happen to work in retail and yes employee theft is a problem....however, if one of my employees found a quarter on the sales floor and put it in their pocket that would in no way be grounds for termination. And I'm sure if you found a quarter on the floor in a grocery store you wouldn't be running your ass to the service desk with it in case the owner came back. Be serious for godsake.

January 28 2012 at 12:18 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down
dwhitedog1122

Learn how to spell before you insult someone. your = you're

August 08 2012 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
scripchik

Doesn't sound to me that he 'stole' anything. The employer is shameful for firing this person and needs to have his head examined. Better yet, have him trade places with this poor guy for a day and let him see what it's like to deal with this disability. All I can say about this is SHAME ON THIS GUY who fired him!

January 26 2012 at 7:35 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
Kat

This is horrible!!! Curt Sills, the manager if you can call him that, has a heart of stone and this little upstart needs to be horsewhipped. Kyle Dowie had been working at the store for 25 years!!! for God's sake, and from what I have read, the allegations could not even be proven--know why?? because it did not happen. Fire Sills and give Mr. Dowie his job back. DO THE RIGHT THING!!

January 26 2012 at 5:39 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

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