A diabetic cashier was wrongly fired from her job at a South San Francisco Walgreens store after grabbing a bag of chips to stave off a hypoglycemic attack, federal authorities have alleged.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Walgreen Co. in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday, accusing the company of violating Josefina Hernandez’s civil rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Hernandez was fired in September 2008 after opening a $1.39 bag of chips in order to stabilize her blood sugar, and paying for them after her shift, according to the EEOC.
“I almost always carry a piece of candy in my pocket for situations when I feel my blood sugar getting low, but I didn’t have anything on me this time,” Hernandez said in a statement. “I knew I needed to do something quickly.”
Hernandez had worked for Walgreens for nearly 18 years, had never been disciplined, and the company knew she was diabetic, the EEOC said.
“I worked for Walgreens with no problems for almost two decades, so I am very upset to lose my job over this,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez’ attorney William Tamayo noted the ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities.
“One wonders whether a long-term, experienced employee is worth less than a bag of chips to Walgreens,” Tamayo said.
A Walgreens spokesperson did not immediately respond to a call for comment.
The lawsuit is seeking monetary damages, including back pay and possible reinstatement of Hernandez’s job, and an injunction preventing Walgreens “from terminating the employment of an employee because of a disability.”