Diabetic Employee Fired for 'Grazing' to Stave Off Hypoglycemic Episode, Federal Agency Charges
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A diabetic sales associate suffering from a hypoglycemic episode while on duty at a Maryville, Tenn., Dollar General was fired for consuming orange juice, which she paid for as soon as the medical emergency had passed, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a lawsuit it announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, the employee, who has insulin-dependent diabetes, was working the cash register at Dollar General when she started to experience symptoms of a hypoglycemic episode. Customers were in line, so the former employee grabbed an orange juice from Dollar General's cooler and consumed it to stabilize her blood sugar. She paid for the orange juice after the customers left. The former employee told her supervisor on several occasions that she had diabetes, and she requested that the store allow her to keep her own juice near the cash register, but the store denied those requests. Dollar General fired the employee for violating its grazing policy, which prohibits employees from consuming merchandise before payment.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Dollar General, Civil Action No. 3:14-cv-00441) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting Dollar General from discriminating against employees with disabilities, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for the former employee.
"This employee took a life-saving precaution by drinking the orange juice," said EEOC District Director Katharine Kores. "She should not be fired for having diabetes or tending to her health concerns - especially in such an emergency situation. Businesses need to use some judgment and restraint when faced with such an episode. The EEOC will continue to fight for discrimination victims such as this lady."
According to company information, Dollar General is the nation's largest small-box discount retailer. It is a convenience store offering major brands with many of their products costing a dollar or less. The company with corporate headquarters in Goodlettsville, Tenn., operates 11,000 stores nationwide.
The Memphis District Office of the EEOC oversees Tennessee, Arkansas and parts of Mississippi. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the website at www.eeoc.gov.