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Your Employee Matters


By January 1, 2010No Comments

In a California case, AM vs. Albertson’s Supermarket, an employee of Albertson’s underwent a difficult operation to help cure cancer of the tonsils and larynx. The treatment affected her salivary glands, which required her to drink water constantly and, as a result, go to the bathroom frequently. Albertson’s, aware of its obligations under California and federal disability law, did everything possible to accommodate the plaintiff.

Unfortunately, the plaintiff worked under a new manager unaware of her limitations, which led to a situation in which the plaintiff was stuck at the register and despite requests to be relieved so that she could go to the bathroom, obtained no relief. Unable to hold it anymore, the plaintiff urinated in her pants and went home distressed.

As it turns out, she had suffered since youth from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), which caused her to cycle into depression and lose a great deal of time from work. At trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff $200,000 — $12,000 for lost wages, $40,000 in future medical expenses, and $148,000 for past emotional stress.

Albertson’s argued that under the circumstances, the plaintiff had a continuing duty to communicate with the new manager regarding her need for an accommodation or simply to leave the register and use the bathroom. In upholding the plaintiff’s verdict, the court reminded employers of two important obligations: 1) You take employees “as you find them.” For example, if you have an employee with PTSD, and an incident causes them to become depressed, when a normal person would not, the plaintiff is entitled to damages; and 2) If an employee is being accommodated and you have new management, you must make them aware of this accommodation Read the entire case here.