Worker With Disabilities Fired Over 20 Cents

For 25 years, 43-year-old Kyle Dowie has been processing bottles and cans brought in for redemption at a Hy-Vee store in Des Moines, Iowa. It is work that many might consider “monotonous or dirty” but that has been — as his mother, Jean Ann Johnson says — a “lifeline” for Dowie, who has Tourette’s Syndrome and intellectual disabilities. It’s the kind of job that I hope my 14 1/2 son Charlie, who’s on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum, might be able to have someday.

So I was all the more distressed to hear that, back in November, Dowie was fired for trying to cash in 20 cents worth of bottle-deposit credits that did not belong to him, as Hy-Vee’s operations manager Curt Sills, contends. The Des Moines Register explains what happened, according to Dowie’s mother:

…[Dowie] has at times picked up credit slips left in the recycling machines by customers, thinking they might come back for them. On Nov. 2, while redeeming $3.75 worth of bottles brought from home, she said he fished an additional 20 cents worth of credits dated in September out of his pocket and presented them for payment….

Sills also accused Dowie — with no evidence — of going to other Hy-Vee stores to cash in receipts, which Dowie denies doing. His mother said he had been written up before for redeeming unclaimed credit slips, though the most recent time was eight years ago. She said he’s honest but has gotten confused about slips he was holding. He has consistently gotten excellent performance reviews, she said.

This past week, a complaint was filed with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission on Dowie’s behalf. According to the complaint, Dowie was discriminated against based on his disability. In his statement, Dowie said “I am mentally retarded, but Hy-Vee did not take that into account when ending my employment over twenty cents.”

Dowie made $13 an hour and received 4 weeks of vacation and his mother, Johnson, thinks that these benefits are the reason that Hy-Vee sought to fire again. The store has actually offered him a job at another Hy-Vee, but at the minimum wage and without benefits — even though, the Des Moines Register says, a Hy-Vee corporate spokeswoman states that “If a person is terminated from Hy-Vee for cause, we would not recommend them to another Hy-Vee store.”

Regarding Dowie’s case, Hy-Vee is not commenting on the grounds of “confidentiality.”

I find Dowie’s firing appalling. I only know about Dowie from the Des Moines Register article, but I can see how he may have become “confused” about which credit slips he had and mistakenly redeemed one. The 20 cents he was fired for is a negligible amount. Were Dowie or Johnson even given the chance to explain how he came by the September receipt with the extra 20 cents?

I can imagine my son having such confusion and making an error and certainly without any intent of theft or malice. I am hopeful that Dowie prevails with his civil rights suit and that Hy-Vee learns that the rights of workers with disabilities must be acknowledged and respected — and, that Dowie is able to have his former job, at the same salary and with the same benefits, again.

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Photo by Jesster79 ("Jesse6") via Wikimedia Commons


Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener5 years ago


Lika S.
Lika P5 years ago

People's cash registers have been off more than 20 cents in the course of the day... and you don't fire cashiers for that. It sounds as if the company was embarrassed to have a tourrette and disabled employee, and was looking for a reason to fire this person.

If he got his job back, great. I hope next time, regardless of who the employee is, that they will try to ensure that the reason for the firing is legit. In this economy, none of us can afford to lose our jobs over a petty reason, especially only 20 cents.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

poor employee.. I hope the suit pans out well

Mary C.
Mary C5 years ago

for any of the folks questioning the validity of the story, anybody actually go read the original article? - I'm sure if it were factually inaccurate against the store or manager in any way that counted, someone would have either filed a slander charge against the newspaper, or the company HQ would have found a legal way to speak out on behalf of the manager without violating privacy laws for the guy they canned. As it turns out, the original article is practically the exact same story, detail for detail. And yes, history shows that people, companies, authorities, and governments often do extremely stupid, heartless, and incomprehensible things without justified, fair, or legal cause. Why would anyone think it's unfair to believe that to be the case here? It would indeed be irresponsible to be throwing around angry accusations and hateful remarks without any facts. But we have facts. The information in the article is affirmed as accurate by being printed in a newspaper without any challenge whatsoever to be found on record. It's irresponsible to assume this didn't happen just because the article doesn't have a response - of ANY kind - from the company. If the manager's actions were defensible, the company could have done so, but they didn't. That speaks volumes.

John Mackey
John Mackey5 years ago


Myron Scott
Myron Scott5 years ago

Thanks, Eddie. You said it better than I.

Eddie O.
Eddie O5 years ago

cont. -- For our own sake, I do hope that all of us try to be as fair as possible in future situations like this, prior to jumping on the band wagon and “assuming” some person, or company, is guilty, without us knowing all of the facts, or both sides of the situation. To me, condemning someone without all the facts being presented is a lynch mob mentality which is far from the Humane Society I would hope we’re trying to create here.

Eddie O.
Eddie O5 years ago

Myron -- Thank you so much for your voice of reason! We are very quick to condemn the right-wing nut cases for jumping on things and picking sides without knowing both sides of the story or hearing all the facts. Sure, this seemed like a slam dunk case, giving the one side that we were given. And, everyone thought how pathetic that this guy was fired over 20 cents.

How does anyone know what he was fired over??? They only read it on the Internet, does that make it true, a fact? Absolutely not. The story may have been accurate, but I highly doubt that it wasn’t slanted at least to some extent. I say this as it just doesn’t make sense, add is totally opposed to logic and reason.

A company would have to be pretty stupid to do what this company was accused of doing, and maybe this is the case here, but I find it hardly likely. There had to be more to this case than what was told to us by just one side of the equation.

Still, I feel it’s good that this guy got his job back, if he wants it, and hopefully the company and other companies learn how much power the people have, and how they need to present their own side of the story, if they can do so without breaking privacy laws. Certainly hiring this guy back appears to be much less costly to the company than all the negative flack they received.

For our own sake, I do hope that all of us try to be as fair as possible in future situations like this, prior to jumping on the band wagon and “assuming&

Myron Scott
Myron Scott5 years ago

... Generally, I'm a great admirer of Ms. Chew's work; but I confess my doubts, if anything, are increasing about this essentially second-hand story.

I signed the petition and I am glad Mr. Dowie may have his job back, because I always give the worker or the disabled the benefit of the doubt. I do not regret having done so; but, yes, I agree there is room for doubt.

Myron Scott
Myron Scott5 years ago

Another thing that didn't ring exactly true in the C2 account: "As Dowie said in the statement, “I am mentally retarded...." I both represent the disabled as a lawyer (NEVER the other side) and work with special needs kids K-8. Neither they, the vast majority of their parents, teachers, aides, other special needs workers and volunteers, experienced
doctors, or most lawyers and judges use the stigmatizing phrase "mentally retarded." If someone at Hy-Vee had persisted in calling Mr. Dowie "retarded," that in itself could have been grounds for a discrimination claim. It did make me wonder.

There are scammers out there, too. (Remember the part finger in the sandwich thing awhile back?)

We do not know the facts, just the allegations. Unless this goes to trial and all the way to a verdict, we will never know "the facts." Maybe not even then. Just because a story fits our particular world view is no reason to jump to conclusions. The right wing can and does do that; I would hope we would do better.

One other problem with the story. The article does says, "Dowie has intellectual disabilities and Tourette’s Syndrome...", which is correct - except that it IS "Tourette Syndrome", not "Tourette's Syndrome" - inasmuch as Tourette Syndrome is not an intellectual disability in and of itself. Most of the comments appear to have missed that distinction.

Generally, I'm a great admirer of Ms. Chew's work; but I confess my doubts, if anything, are increasing about this e