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EEOC Sues Walgreens for Disability Discrimination

September 19, 2011

According to recent U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) news, that our Riverside employment attorneys have been following, the commission has filed a lawsuit against a Walgreens drugstore for California disability discrimination, on behalf of a store clerk who suffers from diabetes in the San Francisco area--whose employment was terminated for taking and eating chips from the store in order to quickly stabilize her levels of blood sugar.

The EEOC claims that Josefina Hernandez was an outstanding employee with almost 18 years of service with the company, and no record of any employment problems. Walgreens reportedly knew about her diabetes. The lawsuit accuses Walgreens of disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), for deciding to terminate Hernandez because of her diabetes, after eating chips because her blood sugar was low.

According to the lawsuit, in 2008, Hernandez was working as a cashier, when she felt an attack of hypoglycemia coming on, a state produced by an abnormally low level of blood sugar or glucose, commonly associated with diabetes. The Mayo clinic states that immediate treatment of hypoglycemia involves taking quick steps to stabilize your blood sugar back to a normal range, by eating foods that are high in sugar or taking medication to avoid a diabetic episode or emergency.

Hernandez reportedly grabbed a bag of chips that cost $1.39 and quickly ate them, paying for the chips as soon as she could on the same day, after she finished her duty as a cashier. Hernandez claimed that she almost always carries a piece of candy in her pocket for emergency situations, but she didn't have anything with her during her shift on that day. She stated that she knew she needed to act quickly to treat the hypoglycemia, so she reached for a bag of chips and paid for them as soon as she could.

As our attorneys have discussed in a previous Anaheim employment lawyers blog, under the ADA, it is against the law to discriminate against an individual because of their disability in the job application process, hiring, firing, job advancement, training, compensation or other terms of employment. Employers are required under law to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

According to William R. Tamayo, the EEOC's San Francisco Regional Attorney, Hernandez took action to stabilize her blood sugar levels in order to avoid an emergency situation. Employers have a duty to accommodate disabled employees, often in a flexible and open-minded way. Tamayo stated that he wondered whether a long-term and experienced employee like Hernandez is worth less to Walgreens than a bag of chips.

The American Diabetes Association reports that in 2011, 25.8 million adults and children have diabetes in the United States--8.3 percent of the U.S. population. Like Hernandez, 13.3 percent of these adults with diabetes disabilities are Mexican-Americans.

The EEOC disability discrimination lawsuit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, punitive damages, and compensation for Hernandez's emotional distress. The suit also seeks to prevent disability discrimination by Walgreens in the future.

At Howard Law, PC our employment lawyers believe that all employees are entitled to a work environment that is free from discrimination based on disabilities or employment stereotypes. If you have experienced workplace discrimination in Orange County, contact our attorneys today for a free consultation about your rights.

Woman claims she was fired over diabetes, KNTV/NBC, September 20, 2011

Walgreens Sued By EEOC For Disability Discrimination, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), September 9, 2011

Mayo Clinic: Hypoglycemia

Related Web Resources:

Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC)

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