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Corporations know that they have to accommodate their employees with disabilities, like allowing a diabetic worker to take regular breaks to monitor blood glucose and insulin levels during the employee’s shift and allow them breaks to eat properly so that their glucose levels remain stable. So it is quite unusual that Walgreen Co. fired an 18-year employee from the San Francisco area with no prior disciplinary record after her blood sugar levels plummeted while she operated the cash register, and she quickly grabbed a bag of chips to stabilize herself and avoid going into diabetic shock and having seizures. The employee was not trying to avoid paying for the chips; indeed, she paid for them at the end of her shift. Still, the company fired her for violating their policy of consuming food or drinks without paying for them.

This month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, announced that Walgreen had agreed to pay a $180,000 settlement to their former employee over the $1.39 bag of potato chips. The employee is now eligible for rehire and cannot be discriminated against because of her filing. This is just one example of how employers can overreact badly to a disabled employee’s reasonable attempt at accommodating their disability. Another way in which they try to run roughshod over their workers is with denied claims for disability benefits when the claims are legitimate and made in good faith. But trying to decipher the myriad of complex rules governing employment law is almost impossible for the average worker. That’s why it’s a good idea for employees to seek the counsel of an employment law professional when employers do everything they can to deny disability benefits.

Source: Crain’s Chicago Business, “A $1.39 bag of chips cost Walgreen $180,000,” July 3, 2014.

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