"Disability-Friendly" Employer Loses Federal Suit Over
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 5, 2004
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA--Two years ago, David Warnes lost his job over a donut.
Warnes, who has Down syndrome, was fired from his grocery bagger job at a Giant Eagle supermarket after he ate half of an Entenmann's donut, then put the other half back into a box on the shelf.
A federal jury on Thursday ruled that, when it fired Warnes, Giant Eagle discriminated against 37-year-old in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Before the jury could decide on an amount to award Warnes, however, both sides announced that a settlement had been agreed upon. According to the Post-Gazette, the details of the settlement are to remain secret.
Timothy O'Brien, a civil rights attorney representing Warnes said the supermarket chain initially claimed it fired his client for violating the employee theft policy. During the week-long trial, the company said Warnes had a history of workplace problems. O'Brien argued that Warnes had not violated the theft policy before the incident, and had not been disciplined for any violation since 1998.
"We argued that he didn't understand the consequences of his action," said Mark Murphy, deputy executive director of the Disabilities Law Project.
In 2002, a state unemployment compensation board ruled that Warnes was eligible for lost wages.
Warnes' lawsuit sought monetary damages for lost wages, emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation and reimbursement for the trouble he may have in finding another job.
His mother said he does not want his job back.
Last October, the U.S. Department of Labor honored Giant Eagle with a New Freedom Initiative Award for "outstanding employment practices toward people with disabilities."
"Giant Eagle reaches settlement with former employee" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)