Back in November, 43-year-old Kyle Dowie was fired from his job of 25 years for trying to cash in 20 cents worth of bottle-deposit credits that did not belong to him. Dowie’s job involved processing bottles and cans brought in for redemption at a Hy-Vee store in Des Moines, Iowa; it was a job that many would consider “monotonous or dirty” but that was, as his 72-year-old mother, Jean Ann Johnson, put it, a “lifeline” to him. Dowie has intellectual disabilities and Tourette’s Syndrome and last week a complaint was filed with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission on his behalf alleging that he had been discriminated against on the basis of his disability. As Dowie said in the statement, “I am mentally retarded, but Hy-Vee did not take that into account when ending my employment over twenty cents.”
Just today, the Des Moines Register reports that Hy-Vee has invited Dowie to rejoin the company. In a memo to employees, Ron Taylor, executive vice president of Hy-Vee, stated that the company was willing to reinstate Dowie:
The text of Taylor’s message to employees said Dowie’s dismissal was “due to violating company policies.” It added that while it was within its right to dismiss Dowie, “his departure has led many individuals to mischaracterize our company” and includes a comment that it is in the best interests of the company and Dowie for him to rejoin Hy-Vee.
Hy-Vee executive Taylor’s memo added that Hy-Vee has a long history of creating jobs for the mentally and physically disabled. While this is certainly commendable, the company’s firing of Dowie over 20 cents is all the more puzzling. Dowie had been written up before for redeeming unclaimed credit slips — the most recent time was eight years ago — due to becoming confused. Hy-Vee had not fired him over those previous instances of “violating company policies” so why did it do so in November?
Dowie’s mother, Johnson, says that Hy-Vee’s offer is not for the job that Dowie previously had but for a corporate job. Dowie’s lawyer, Brooke Timmer, tells AOL Jobs that he is “just really scared and confused” and is not yet sure if he’ll take the offer. But Dowie is, for sure, eager to get back to work.
The Des Moines Register also notes that, after columnist Rekha Basu wrote about Dowie on January 20, a ”petition on the site Care2, demanding that Dowie be rehired, gathered more than 19,000 signatures.” A huge thanks to Care2 members who signed the petition and showed their support for Dowie. I am hopeful that my 14 1/2 son Charlie, who’s on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum, might be able to have a job someday. Knowing that so many people out there demanded that Hy-Vee rehire Dowie means a lot.
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