(CN) – Albertsons must pay $200,000 to a grocery clerk who urinated and menstruated on herself at the checkout counter because her manager failed to accommodate her disability, a California appeals court ruled.
A.M., a Salvadoran immigrant, had to drink water constantly while working at Albertsons, because she developed severe dry mouth from her treatment for cancer of the tonsils and larynx.
She had an arrangement for managers to cover for her during bathroom breaks, which sometimes occurred as often as every 45 minutes.
This arrangement worked until acting manager Kellie Sampson was in charge of one shift. Nobody told Sampson – the only person qualified to cover for A.M. – about the bathroom arrangement.
Sampson refused to cover for A.M., despite her pleas for relief, because she was busy unloading merchandise in the back. Even after A.M. urinated and menstruated on herself, Sampson did not relieve her.
A.M. became depressed, took frequent showers and shaved off her body hair to get the smell to go away.
At trial, the jury heard testimony of A.M’s depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to cancer, A.M. had allegedly watched loved ones die in the Salvadoran civil war, endured her brother’s recent death, survived a car wreck, and had been robbed at gunpoint and physically assaulted.
The jury awarded her $200,000 for lost wages, medical expenses and emotional distress.
Justice Reardon of the San Francisco-based First District Court of Appeal upheld the decision.
“As is demonstrated by A.M.’s case, a single failure to make reasonable accommodation can have tragic consequences for an employee who is not accommodated,” Reardon wrote.