Expect some serious backlash against Walgreens when this story goes viral: Josefina Hernandez was an 18-year employee of the retailer, at the company's South San Francisco location. Hernandez is diabetic, and felt a hypoglycemic attack coming on. She had forgotten to keep her usual supply of candy on-hand, so she grabbed a bag of chips to stave off the attack. She paid the $1.39 as soon as she was able to leave her post and get the money.
Walgreens' response was to fire her. The company, evidently, has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to employee "theft."
This happened in September of 2008, and evidently attempts at reaching a settlement have fallen through. So Hernandez, with the help of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is suing the retailer for punitive damages and back pay.
"Accommodating disability does not have to be expensive, but it may require an employer to be flexible and open-minded," said EEOC lawyer William Tamayo in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "One wonders whether a long-term, experienced employee is worth less than a bag of chips to Walgreens."
Indeed, it does make you wonder that – and it also makes you wonder how much sense zero-tolerance policies make in retail. Common sense at the management level certainly should have kicked in here.
James Bickers is the senior editor of Retail Customer Experience, and also manages live events and webinars for Networld Media Group. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist and innovative content strategist, with publication credits in national, international and regional publications.