Recently an American company paid out $180,000 in settlement of an employee’s grievance after the employee was fired for taking and eating a bag of chips without paying.

The employee had a known diabetic condition, and had explained that the chips were consumed to ward off a hypoglycaemic attack.  Later, the chips were paid for.

It appears the employer had not taken the employee’s explanation into account, and had fired the employee for breaching a workplace policy that any food had to be paid for before it was consumed.

The employee alleged that the dismissal was discriminatory.  Later the parties settled.

The employer released a press statement confirming that the settlement was consistent with the employer’s past and future commitment to accommodating the special needs of employees with illnesses and disabilities.

If the same situation arose in New Zealand the case would be a classic case of unjustified dismissal.  It highlights the need for employers to conduct proper investigations, and consider any explanations, before making a decision to terminate an employee’s employment.