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Fired for Eating a bag of potato chips

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Walgreens Sued By EEOC For Disability Discrimination

Store Fired Worker with Diabetes for Eating Chips to Stop Hypoglycemia Attack, Federal Agency Charges

SAN FRANCISCO — Drugstore giant Walgreens violated federal law  by firing a worker with diabetes instead of accommodating her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity  Commission charged in a lawsuit filed today under the Americans With  Disabilities Act (ADA).

According  to the EEOC, Josefina Hernandez, a cashier at Walgreens’ South San Francisco store, was on duty when  she opened a $1.39 bag of chips because she was suffering from an attack of  hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Hernandez  had worked for Walgreens for almost 18 years with no disciplinary record, and Walgreens  knew of her diabetes. Nevertheless, Walgreens  fired her after being informed that Hernandez had eaten the chips because her  blood sugar was low, even though she paid for the chips when she came off  cashier duty.

“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,” said  Hernandez. “I knew I needed to do something  quickly, so I reached for a bag of chips and paid for them as soon as I could. I worked for Walgreens with no problems almost  two decades, so I am very upset to lose my job over this.”

The ADA prohibits disability  discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to  employees with disabilities. The EEOC  filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Walgreen Co.,  Case No. CV11-4470-JSC) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of  California, after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The suit seeks monetary damages, including  back pay, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages, as well as  measures to prevent future discrimination by the employer.

EEOC San Francisco Regional  Attorney William R. Tamayo said,  “Employers clearly have an affirmative duty to  accommodate employees with disabilities.  Ms. Hernandez took action to raise her blood sugar in what could have  turned into an emergency situation. Accommodating  disability does not have to be expensive, but it may require an employer to be  flexible and open-minded. One wonders  whether a long-term, experienced employee is worth less than a bag of chips to  Walgreens.”

EEOC San Francisco  District Director Michael Baldonado noted, “This year theAmerican Diabetes  Association reports that 25.8 million children and adults in the United States –  or 8.3 percent of the population – have diabetes. Among Mexican-Americans like Ms. Hernandez,  13.3 percent of adults have diabetes. Under  the newly amended disability law, savvy employers should focus on training  their staff to understand how and when to accommodate employees with  disabilities.”

Walgreens (NYSE:WAG)  is based outside Chicago in Deerfield,  Ill., and has more than 8,000 stores in the United States  and its territories. According to its  June 21, 2011 financial report, Walgreens’ net earnings for the nine months  ending May 31, 2011 totaled $1,922,000,000.

The EEOC enforces federal  laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC  is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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US investment in the Netherlands from 2000 to 2010 was nine times more than US investment in China during the same period. US investment in the UK was more than seven times more, and in Ireland nearly three times more, than in China. (Source: Transatlantic Economy 2011

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