The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken up the case of diabetic Walgreens employee Josefina Hernandez, a woman who was fired from a South San Francisco, California, store in 2008, after she ate a $1.39 bag of chips in a bid to stabilize her dropping blood sugar.
Hernandez reportedly paid for the chips the moment she was able to leave the register, but was still terminated.
The Commission contends that Walgreens violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and should have provided a reasonable accommodation.
Josefina Hernandez normally carries candy in her pocket to alleviate low blood sugar, but the SF Examiner reports that she was without on the day of the incident, causing her to grab a bag of chips.
Under Walgreens policy, employees who fail to pay prior to consuming an item are considered shoplifters, even if they pay minutes later. They are summarily terminated.
Per the ADA, employers are required to accommodate employees' disabilities, including making reasonable changes to existing policies.
Arguably, it's reasonable to allow a diabetic Walgreens employee to eat and then pay for a low-cost food item in times of potential emergency. It poses little burden on the store, and prevents hypoglycemic shock.
Such a policy modification is likely even more reasonable in light of the Examiner's reported 18 years of discipline-free employment, and the steps Hernandez takes to avoid such incidents while at work.
Because she is a known diabetic, Walgreens is likely to be found liable for failing to consider the entirety of these circumstances, and instead choosing to fire Josefina Hernandez.
- Walgreens sued over firing diabetic who took chips (San Francisco Chronicle)
- ADA: Disabilities & Your Rights as an Employee (FindLaw)
- How to Request a Reasonable Accommodation (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life)