An employer who terminated a diabetic employee for violating its “anti-grazing” policy found itself on the wrong side of a jury verdict and liable for almost $450,000 for the employee’s attorneys’ fees.
The employee in EEOC v. Dolgencorp, LLC worked at a discount retailer. Because she often worked alone, she asked her manager if she could keep orange juice at the register in case of a hypoglycemic episode, but was told that was against store policy. Twice, she had such an episode, and each time she took orange juice from the store cooler, drank it, and paid for it. She informed the store manager each time. Subsequently, in the course of a store audit, she also told the district manager and regional loss prevention manager of the two incidents. They then terminated her for violation of the store’s anti-grazing policy, which prohibits employees from consuming merchandise before paying for it.
The Eighth Circuit found that the jury reasonably concluded that the employer had failed to provide the employee with reasonable accommodations, as it had denied her request and did not engage in any discussions about other possible accommodations. The anti-grazing policy violation was not a legitimate basis for the termination.
This case serves as a warning to employers to be thoughtful about addressing employees’ requests for accommodation, particularly when the accommodations requested are relatively minor in nature.