Would you pay $180,000 for a bag of potato chips? Would have to be some good bag of chips, or some large bag! Something by Flay? or Keller? In any event, a bag of chips so delicious you could plotz (sorry Woody).
That’s what one company paid to settle a disability discrimination case filed by the EEOC on behalf of a diabetic employee who “grabbed” a bag of chips from the company’s store shelf while in the midst of a attack. The company policy against “employee grazing” must be strictly and consistently enforced, the company claimed, no matter how trivial the item “grabbed.” But was this enforcement worth $180,000?
Sure, employers are encouraged to be consistent in enforcing its policies. And sure, inventory “disappearance” is a major concern. But as noted by Crystal Miller O’Brien, an employment law manager and corporate counsel in LA, “Mechanical application of rules will get you in trouble every time.”
Wasn’t there a better way than this?
Rona Wexler, an employability expert in the NYC area, commented:
“Whatever happened to common sense?”
Crystal Miller O’Brien, employment law manager and corporate counsel in LA:
“Mechanical application of rules will get you in trouble every time.”
Michelle LeGault, an employment attorney in the Atlanta area:
“Had this not settled, issues at trial would likely include whether the employee should have had insulin or candy on her person (like eyeglasses that correct legal blindness), and whether it would have been reasonable for the employer to require a sweating, shaking diabetic employee to first locate her supervisor and then obtain permission to eat the chips first and pay later.”
Jim Zufall, President, a benefits and insurance consultant in the Tampa/St. Pete area:
“Like in so many situations; a little common sense may have gone a long way to keeping this situation out of the hands of the EEOC. But, as many already know, common sense is not that common.”
Wendy Knutsen, HR expert in the Detroit area:
“I agree with Jim; partner common sense with communication and this issue would not have escalated to the need for a lawsuit.”
Nancy Fadling, law student, Medford, OR area:
“Interesting take on reasonable accommodation. Thank you for sharing the article.”
Andre X. Barnarde, a management consultant in the Johannesburg, SA area:
“BELIEVE it or NOT! This story should be relegated to some category in Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Strange but True, or something similar-
Just because a company has a strict policy, does not mean it should be enforced in every case.
The 13-year history of the employee showed no undue incidents of abusing the employer’s knowledge of the disability.
One wonders why any organization would subject anyone to such drivel, including themselves.
Anyone can understand a very strict policy when it comes to stealing, or even anything which could be construed as stealing.
But, based on the information in the article, the decision to dismiss just does not make sense.”