Diabetic Employee Fired for ‘Stealing’ Juice to Stabilize Blood Sugar
Woman awarded $277K for disability discrimination
If you have diabetes or know someone who does, you might know how scary it can be when blood sugar becomes unstable.
Diabetics who are trying to ward off a hypoglycemic episode may need to quickly consume simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, to keep from going into a full-blown attack. Some people with diabetes carry juice or candy with them for occasions such as these.
Unfortunately, some employers make it hard for diabetics to manage their conditions. In a recent court case, one employer was so set on strictly adhering to company rules that it ended up trampling on the rights of a diabetic employee.
Let’s look at what happened and then discuss what diabetic workers need to know.
No time to pay
One day in 2011, Linda Atkins was working alone at The Dollar General store where she was employed as a cashier.
Atkins had type 2 diabetes. On this day, she felt a hypoglycemic attack start to come on. Knowing that she needed to stabilize her blood sugar quickly, she took an orange juice from the refrigerated display near her register. Only after Atkins drank the juice and the episode passed did she pay for the juice.
She told her supervisor about the incident. She also asked if she could keep a container of juice near her register in case it happened again. The supervisor refused her request, stating that company policy did not allow employees to keep personal food or drinks near the register.
Several months later, the situation was repeated. Again, Atkins recounted the incident to her supervisor, telling her that she paid for the juice after the fact.
Not long after that, the store’s loss manager asked to interview Atkins. Atkins was asked to write a statement about what happened in each incident. She did so and was terminated.
Atkins complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC sued Atkins’s employer on her behalf. It alleged that the company had violated Atkins’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The company attempted to have the case thrown out, but the court refused.
A jury awarded Atkins $277,565, including $27,565 for back pay and $250,000 for compensatory damages.
(The case discussed here is EEOC & Atkins v. Dolgencorp, LLC, d/b/a Dollar General. See here for more information.)
What it means to you
Diabetic employees who are covered by the ADA may be entitled certain reasonable accommodations under the law.
According to the EEOC, those accommodations may include (but are not limited to):
- Providing a private area to test blood sugar levels or administer insulin shots
- Providing a rest area in which the worker may rest until his or her blood sugar levels stabilize
- Allowing breaks to eat, drink, take medication, or test blood sugar levels
Contact us for a consultation
If you’ve been denied job accommodations under the ADA, or if you’ve been fired because of a disability, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney to find out about your rights.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.