Company Must Pay $277K After Refusing to Accommodate Worker’s Diabetes
Supervisor wouldn’t allow woman to keep juice at her work station
If you live with diabetes, you’re probably used to monitoring your health on a daily basis. After all, blood sugar fluctuations can cause pose serious medical problems.
Diabetes is often covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Because of that, diabetic employees may sometimes be granted accommodations that make it easier to practice self-care in the work environment.
However, some employers either aren’t aware of their obligations under the ADA, or they simply don’t care. In those situations, workers may feel like they have to choose between their health and their jobs.
A recent court case demonstrates how one employer made life particularly difficult for a diabetic employee. Fortunately, this worker decided to fight back and the company had to answer for its unlawful behavior.
No Food or Drinks Allowed
Linda Atkins was a cashier at The Dollar General. She also suffered from type 2 diabetes and was prone to hypoglycemic episodes.
Because of her condition, Atkins asked if she could keep a container of juice with her at the cash register. She explained to her supervisor that she needed the juice to quickly stabilize her blood sugar if she felt a hypoglycemic attack coming on.
The supervisor said no. She reminded Atkins that employees were not allowed to have food or drinks in their work areas.
One day in 2011, Atkins began to experience symptoms of a hypoglycemic attack while she was at the cash register. Knowing that she needed to get her blood sugar levels quickly under control, she grabbed an orange juice from a display near her work area and drank it. She then paid for the juice.
Later, she told her supervisor about the incident.
A few months later, Atkins again experienced a hypoglycemic attack while working the register. Once again, she took an orange juice from the display and drank it. She paid for the juice after she was feeling better.
She recounted the incident to her supervisor, who shared the story with the store’s loss manager.
Not long after that, Atkins was fired for violating the company’s “grazing” policy, which prohibits employees from consuming food sold in the store prior to paying for it.
Atkins filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The agency sued Atkins’s former employer for violating Atkins’s rights under the ADA.
The company lost.
A jury awarded Atkins $27,565 for back pay and $250,000 for compensatory damages, for a total of $277,565.
(The case discussed here is EEOC & Atkins v. Dolgencorp, LLC, d/b/a Dollar General.)
Protection for Diabetic Workers
According to the EEOC, diabetic employees may be entitled certain reasonable accommodations under the ADA, including:
- Having access to a private area to test blood sugar levels and/or administer insulin shots
- Having access to a rest area while waiting for blood sugar levels stabilize
- Being granted breaks to to eat, drink, take medication, or test blood sugar levels
If you believe that you’ve been discriminated against because of diabetes or another medical condition, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney about your rights.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.