How Two $1.69 Bottles of OJ Cost Dollar General $277K

Diabetic employee drank a juice, paid for it, told her bosses, was fired for 'grazing'
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2016 7:27 AM CDT
How Two $1.69 Bottles of OJ Cost Dollar General $277K
Dollar General is paying dearly for some juice.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

Two bottles of OJ that retailed for $1.69 at Dollar General will end up costing the chain more than a quarter of a million dollars. That after a diabetic former employee won a lawsuit connected to the juice. Linda Atkins was working at a Maryville, Tenn., location in the fall of 2011 when she felt a hypoglycemic attack coming on. The main cashier was on break, and so "to avoid leaving the cash register unattended, and for the security of the store," Atkins grabbed a bottle of OJ from the cooler, drank it, and then paid for it once her blood sugar had stabilized. WBIR reports the same thing happened again the following January. She was fired for "grazing," and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued. On Sept. 16 Atkins was awarded $27,565 in back wages and $250,000 in compensatory damages, per an EEOC press release.

The backstory is that Atkins asked her supervisor if she could keep her own juice at the register but was told that violated store policy—except that policy allows exceptions for people with medical needs. Atkins' firing was precipitated by a March 2012 "shrinkage" audit to investigate any employee thefts at the store; two employees who admitted to "grazing" pointed out that Atkins had done it as well. That's when Atkins was fired, though the auditors were aware of the medical angle and that she had ultimately paid for the drinks. While the jury found Atkins was wrongfully fired and that the Americans With Disabilities Act was violated, it didn't find the managers acted with malicious intent, thus there are no punitive damages, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel. (See why this man without hands sued Six Flags.)

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