What’s a small bottle of orange juice worth these days? According to a Tennessee jury, the current price is $277,565.
A federal jury recently awarded that amount to a former cashier at a Dollar General store in Maryville, TN.
Here’s a look at the case:
The cashier, an insulin-dependent diabetic, told her supervisor of her condition and requested on several occasions that her supervisor allow her to keep juice near the register to prevent a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) attack. But her supervisor denied the request.
One day, while alone in the store, the cashier began to suffer symptoms of a hypoglycemic attack. She grabbed a small bottle of orange juice — without paying for it — and drank the contents to stabilize her blood sugar count.
After her symptoms subsided, she paid for the orange juice — $1.69 plus tax.
Later, according to the EEOC, Dollar General’s district manager and loss prevention manager appeared in the store to address inventory shrinkage and fired the cashier after she admitted to drinking orange juice before paying for it. Her behavior,they said, violated Dollar General’s policy against “grazing” — employees eating or drinking in the store.
Nobody got the word
Two puzzling facts pop up here: First, the store fired the employee even though it knew she drank the orange juice because of her diabetes and that she had requested to keep juice near the register.
And second, Dollar General had an accommodation policy that could have allowed the cashier to keep juice near the register — but the employees, including management at the Maryville store, did not know about the policy, according to the EEOC.
EEOC filed suit against Dollar General, alleging discrimination under the ADA, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.
The jury returned a verdict for EEOC and the victim, awarding the former cashier $27,565 in back pay and $250,000 in compensatory damages.
“We are very pleased with the jury verdict,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. “It is disappointing, however, that we continue to see cases where employers fail to train their employees on basic requirements under the ADA.”
Disappointing? We’d call it astonishing. And what kind of manager fires someone for drinking orange juice to keep from passing out because of low blood sugar? Policies are policies, but common sense should come into play somewhere in this process.
Dollar General operates over 11,000 stores nationwide. Corporate headquarters are in Goodlettsville, TN.