SAN FRANCISCO — Drugstore chain Walgreens has agreed to pay $180,000 to a diabetic employee who was fired after eating a $1.39 bag of chips before paying for it during what she said was an attack of low blood sugar, federal officials said.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which announced the settlement with Walgreens on Wednesday, filed a discrimination suit against the company three years ago, claiming Walgreens knew about Josefina Hernandez’s medical condition but still fired her from her job as a cashier at a South San Francisco Walgreens in 2008 in violation of federal disability laws.
“Not only was this harsh and unfair, but it was illegal,” EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William Tamayo said in a statement.
According to the suit, the 18-year Walgreens employee paid for the bag of chips the same day she ate them and had no prior disciplinary record. Walgreens denied any connection between her actions and her illness, and fired her for violating a company policy against eating food products before paying for them, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Walgreens’ attorney Chris Murray said in a statement the settlement was consistent with the company’s commitment to accommodate the needs of employees with illnesses or disabilities.
“We are pleased to have reached a resolution that avoids the time and expense of continued litigation for all parties involved,” he said.
A company security officer testified that he didn’t understand what Hernandez meant when she wrote, “My sugar low. Not have time,” in response to his request later for an explanation about why she took the chips without paying, according to the EEOC.
The settlement also requires Walgreens to provide anti-discrimination training, make periodic reports to the EEOC and post a notice regarding the decree for three years.
Hernandez is free to be rehired and cannot be retaliated against, EEOC San Francisco District Office Director Michael Baldonado said.