Can You Be Fired for Having a Medical Emergency at Work?

Dollar General has lost a lawsuit filed by a former cashier who was fired after taking a $1.69 bottle of orange juice to stave off a hypoglycemic attack. The story behind this lifesaving bottle of orange juice and Dollar General’s workplace policies have raised important questions about what rights workers with disabilities have during medical emergencies.

In 2014, the former employee felt the symptoms of an oncoming hypoglycemic attack while she was working the cash register. Hypoglycemic attacks, a symptom of diabetes, occurs when blood sugar levels plummet. Diabetics having hypoglycemic attacks must consume food or drinks with sugar or risk serious complications or death. In other words, this former worker took a $1.69 bottle of orange juice from Dollar General to save her life. The former cashier paid for the drink after the hypoglycemic attack passed, but she was still fired by her manager for violating Dollar General’s ‘grazing’ policies.

Both she and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Dollar General. The former cashier was awarded $277,656 in damages.

Do Workers with Disabilities Have Rights During a Medical Emergency?

Workers with disabilities have protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees. A reasonable accommodation means employers modify job duties, or provide some form of extra help for employees with disabilities.

The former Dollar General cashier was qualified for her job, but had a health condition that could be reasonably accommodated by her employer. She simply needed a food or drink with sugar next to the cash register. In fact, she had asked her manager for this accommodation before the hypoglycemic attack ever took place. She was denied this request, even though Dollar General had an accommodation policy that would have allowed her to keep juice near the register.

Dollar General failed to provide reasonable accommodations to this woman that are required under the ADA.

The Los Angeles labor law lawyers at Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, P.C. can help employees fight back against workplace disability discrimination.

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