Back in May I blogged about an employee who was fired for stealing a bag of chips from Walgreens. The employee was a diabetic who typically carried around candy in case she suffered a drop in blood sugar. On one occasion she started to shake and sweat, a sure sign she needed to ingest some sugar. But she had none on hand. She took a bag of chips (valued at $1.39) and tried to pay for it, but no one was at the register. Thus, she went about her duties and forgot about the chips. When Walgreens discovered the “theft,” it fired her. An EEOC-initiated lawsuit followed, alleging Walgreens violated the ADA by failing to accommodate the petty theft. The case was set for trial after the court denied Walgreens’s motion for summary judgment.
Last week the EEOC obtained a settlement of $180,000 with Walgreens. In addition, Walgreens agreed to provide training to employees on the ADA and reasonable accommodations. The EEOC attorney captured the agency’s view of the matter, stating “[p]eople may think this case revolves around theft, but the real issue is how a company responded to a valued 18-year employee, whom it knew for 13 years to be diabetic, and who attempted to pay for the chips after she recovered from her hypoglycemic attack.” Framed this way, the outcome seems pretty darn reasonable.
What’s the moral of this story? Make sure all managers understand their duties when it comes to reasonable accommodations. Consider having a centralized decision-making process for accommodation issues. And above all, be reasonable.