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Victory! Hy-Vee Offers to Rehire Worker With Disabilities

Victory! Hy-Vee Offers to Rehire Worker With Disabilities

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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Photo by Jesster79 ("Jesse6") via Wikimedia Commons

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162 comments

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3:06PM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

where can i find the stories of the kids funded right here on care2?

4:32PM PST on Feb 13, 2012

Good on hy-vee for offering him another job. They didn't have to, since it looks like his firing was for a legit, if unreasonable, reason. I'd happily pay the .20, as most people would.
Hopefully, he'll accept the new job offer.

7:29PM PST on Feb 10, 2012

I do not see why it matters if he cashes in unused coupons or not. I am not familiar with the proceedure, but if nobody wants the unused coupons, why not allow him to have them? We do not have such things here in WA State

1:47PM PST on Feb 9, 2012

I am not sure why they would offer him a "corporate" job and not just give him his old job back, where, I guess, he would feel more comfortable.

11:23AM PST on Feb 9, 2012

Excellent.

11:18AM PST on Feb 9, 2012

It makes my heart glad to see the number of signatures on this. I hope all ends well for him.

9:52PM PST on Feb 8, 2012

This sounds to me either like a corporate dictate that wasn't thought through very well.
The idiot who first decided to bring him on charges probably should at the minimum demoted and also taught basic human interaction.
HyVee is obviously not a good to place to work for as they cannot hire people who can handle the people they supervise properly.
I don't go to IOWA often but if I do I will avoid the chain.

6:34PM PST on Feb 8, 2012

Beware of Trojan horses... How wonderful that the suit rehired him, the problem is. What is He Hired To DO? Corporate? Corporate? How far above Kyle is this NEW job, and how long before he has to quit? One way for the talking head to FIRE him again! Let Kyle CHOOSE his employment with Hy-Vee? Working in Corporate, he has to buy a new line of clothes, etc. Are they going to keep him in a closet, sorting trash or grinding up paper? I am still upset, how about you?

5:00PM PST on Feb 8, 2012

Of course if he has a lawyer or an advocate they should (and probably will) check to see that Kyle is offered a suitable job, that is within his capabilities and that he could enjoy doing. If he stayed at the job he just lost for 25 years, he must have liked it and been good at it.Thanks to Care2 for helping.

4:26PM PST on Feb 8, 2012

Awareness and subsequent petition-signing create powerful FIRST, not lasting, solutions and need oversight.

Ron Taylor, Exec. V.P. of Hy-Vee, whatta guy! WILLING TO REINSTATE (to avoid mischaracterization while at the same time standing firm of justification of dismissal).

Any followup on the NEW job (not the one previously held) but "corporate", same hours, wages, etc.

(DID YOU NOTICE THE MENTION OF "DOWIE'S LAWYER, BROOKE TIMMER"? Think this had anything to do with Taylor's public gesture? Come on, ya think?

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