Drugstore Walgreens has agreed to pay $180,000 to a long-time South San Francisco employee to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today.
The company fired Josefina Hernandez, who has Type II Diabetes, in 2008 after she ate a $1.39 bag of chips to stabilize her blood sugar level as she suffered a hypoglycemic attack, according to the EEOC.
Hernandez had worked for the company for 18 years. Commission attorneys said Hernandez didn’t have any disciplinary record at work prior to the chips incident, and her employer knew she suffered from diabetes.
She was fired for eating the chips without paying for them.
A security officer, who questioned Hernandez about eating the chips before paying for them, testified he didn’t understand or ask for clarification from Hernandez when she responded to his query by writing “My sugar low. Not have time,” attorneys said.
Attorneys said Hernandez’s termination violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability.
Attorney William R. Tamayo, who is with the EEOC’s San Francisco region, said in a release the termination was not only harsh and unfair, but it was also illegal.
“People may think this case revolves around theft, but the real issue is how a company responded to a valued 18-year employee, whom it knew for 13 years to be diabetic, and who attempted to pay for the chips after she recovered from her hypoglycemic attack,” Tamayo said.
In addition to paying Hernandez the $180,000 settlement, Walgreens will post its revised policy regarding accommodation of disabled employees on its employee intranet site, provide anti-discrimination training, make periodic reports to the EEOC and post a notice regarding the decree for three years.