HR Strange But True!
September 22, 2011

How did a national drugstore chain get into trouble with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over a bag of potato chips and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

On the Walgreens’ “Newsroom” Web page is a press release stating “Walgreens has a well-established commitment to developing innovative programs to address the growing diabetes epidemic” and how its chief medical officer presented “Enhancing Access to Diabetes Care in Your Community and at Work” at a national roundtable [note the “At Work”].

Ironically, there is a also press release on the EEOC website mentioning Walgreens and a lawsuit filed in federal court accusing the company of violating the ADA by firing a diabetic employee because she ate a $1.39 bag of potato chips that had not been paid for.

The employee in question, a diabetic who is covered under the ADA, ate the chips after feeling her blood sugar get low. Why? She had no candy in her pocket to eat as she usually did, and she couldn’t leave her cash register until her break to get her purse to pay for the chips.

The EEOC press release says the employee “took action to raise her blood sugar in what could have turned into an emergency situation."

The employee, who has almost 2 problem-free decades of service with the company, stated to EEOC that she paid for the chips as soon as she was able. “I am very upset to lose my job over this,” the employee is quoted as saying in the press release.

According to David Offen-Brown, an attorney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the company has a “zero-tolerance policy" on employee theft, which was manager enforced.

An EEOC San Francisco regional attorney stated that “Employers clearly have an affirmative duty to accommodate employees with disabilities.” And the San Francisco district director added, "Under the newly amended disability law, savvy employers should focus on training their staff to understand how and when to accommodate employees with disabilities."


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