The sacking of a Walgreens cashier who ate a $1.39 bag of chips during a diabetic attack in 2008 and paid for them later has drawn a lawsuit from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Josefina Hernandez of San Francisco had a clean record in nearly 18 years of service to the drugstore giant. Her supervisors knew she had diabetes, a disease that calls for careful monitoring and regulation of blood sugar levels.
“I almost always carry a piece of candy in my pocket for situations when I feel my blood sugar getting low, but I didn’t have anything on me this time,” Hernandez said in a statement on the EEOC website. “I knew I needed to do something quickly, so I reached for a bag of chips and paid for them as soon as I could. I worked for Walgreens with no problems almost two decades, so I am very upset to lose my job over this.”
The lawsuit claims Walgreens violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities.
“Ms. Hernandez took action to raise her blood sugar in what could have turned into an emergency situation,” EEOC regional attorney William R. Tamayo said in a statement. “Accommodating disability does not have to be expensive, but it may require an employer to be flexible and open-minded. One wonders whether a long-term, experienced employee is worth less than a bag of chips to Walgreens.”
The lawsuit seeks back pay, compensation for emotional distress and measures to prevent future discrimination. A spokesman for Walgreens declined to comment on the pending case.