She was fired for shoplifting...now she might be protected by the ADA

by |

If an employee contravenes your company's shoplifting policy, you have the right to fire them, don't you? Apparently not always, as a current case against Walgreens goes to show.

Last week, a California federal judge refused the company's request to throw out an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit against them – a lawsuit that's already been going on for nearly three years.

The drama is all over a $1.39 bag of chips, and disagreements over the definition of stealing and the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Josefina Hernandez is diabetic, and had been working for Walgreens for 18 years with no disciplinary record. But one day at work she realized her blood sugar was low, and she reached for a bag of chips to rectify the situation as soon as possible. She paid for the bag as soon as she came off cashier duty, but because she had opened the bag before paying, she was fired under the store's zero-tolerance shoplifting policy.

It wasn't long before the company was pursued by the EEOC, which claims Hernandez should have been accommodated for because of her diabetic condition.

While some have rallied to her support, others have pointed out that a win for the Walgreens employee would undermine employers' rights.

“[N]o rule is more important to a retailer than its no-shoplifting rule,” wrote Ohio-based employment lawyer Jon Hyman in defence of Walgreens. “One employee’s reasonable snack is another employer’s unreasonable exception to an important and unbending rule...this case is not nearly as one-sided as the EEOC’s self-serving news release makes it appear.”

The case will continue in California courts.

You might also like:

EEOC denies knowledge of bullying tactics 

Here’s how to handle a candidate who stutters 

A Macy’s hiring manager made a thoughtless comment and America is freaking out 

  • Mike Roach on 4/15/2014 11:13:54 AM

    Come on, if the employee had a verifiable medical condition and paid for the item show a little consideration. It's like the school girl who was suspended for letting another girl who was having an asthma attack use her inhaler under the school "zero drug use policy". A little common sense goes a long way. How much is Walgreens paying for a $1.39 bag of chips.

  • Jeff Tapp on 4/15/2014 11:42:59 AM

    I understand the potential for "I was going to pay later" precedent, and this seems like it can't go the employees way, but Walgreens really blew it by making this a case. If she paid prior to discipline, and she has been dependable for 18 years, how can this position benefit the employer?

HRM America forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions