Kyle Dowie, 43, was fired from his job at an Iowa supermarket over cashing 20 cents of bottle deposits that were left behind by customers. After a complaint was filed with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission on behalf of Dowie alleged discrimination based on his disability, he is weighing an offer to return to his job.
Dowie, who is mentally disabled, worked for 25 years at the Hy-Vee supermarket in Urbandale, seven miles west of Des Moines. On Nov. 2, after recycling $3.75 worth of bottles from home through the store's recycling machine, his mother said he tried to redeem 20 cents worth of credit slips dated in September that may have been left by customers.
His mother, Jean Ann Johnson, 77, said his manager accused Dowie of stealing the 20 cent slips and fired him that day.
In the complaint filed this week with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, Dowie's statement said, "I am mentally retarded, but Hy-Vee did not take that into account when ending my employment over twenty cents."
On Jan. 17, a hearing took place regarding his unemployment benefits, which Hy-Vee had contested.
A spokesman for Hy-Vee, Ruth Comer, said the company offered to reinstate the employee on Tuesday with the same pay and benefits, $13 an hour, full-time at 35 hours a week and five weeks of vacation, according to Johnson. Comer said she cannot discuss specific matters related to employees but that the article that first reported Dowie's story in the Des Moines Register "was not factual in several respects." They proved no additional details.
Dowie and his attorney said they are waiting to hear the full terms of his job offer.
"We understand it to be at the same level of pay and benefits but we don't know yet what duties he will have," Brooke Timmer, Dowie's attorney, said. "Kyle does well with repetition. Obviously, after 25 years at the Urbandale location, he knew what his job was and what was required so we are trying to learn what duties the position they have offered will entail."
"But certainly if we can find a resolution that works at this early stage we want to do that," she said.
Timmer alleges that Dowie's firing violated both the Iowa Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disability Act.
Comer said the company has "a very long history working with disabilities of all types."
"We probably employ more people with disabilities than anyone in the state," she said. "We are proud of our tradition of having an inclusive workplace in which people of all ability levels can succeed."
Headquarted in West Des Moines and founded in 1930, Hy-Vee has 235 stores in eight Midwestern states.
"There would have to be a lot of considerations at this point," Johnson said about the offer. "There has been an enormous support and reaction. We want to make sure everything is sincere and this would be a permanent job offer."