Goodwill Fires Worker With Down Syndrome After His Mother Buys Him A $3 Shirt

The Goodwill in Washington Iowa fired a thirty-year-old employee with Down syndrome after his mother bought him a $3 shirt. Goodwill initially refused to sell the shirt because of a policy banning employees from making purchases on days they were working. Another employee intervened and approved the sale after the employee’s mother explained both that she was a family member and not an employee, and that the employee with Down syndrome had no interest in buying clothes. When the employee reported to work the next day, he was fired.

[The worker’s mother] wrote to Goodwill of the Heartland President Jeff Nock explaining what happened and got back a letter saying, “We are sorry that things didn’t work out with Goodwill and [the worker]. … If donors and customers felt that our staff get any favoritism at all in terms of what staff are able to purchase from stores, donors wouldn’t donate and shoppers wouldn’t shop.”

The rules say violations of the shopping policy might be considered theft, and action “up to and including termination” can result. The misconduct section has four disciplinary levels, starting with verbal warnings.

Mark Zaiger, Goodwill’s attorney, said, “The policy is clear. The employer has the authority to terminate. . . . ” Goodwill spokeswoman Dana Engelbert said the shopping policy is strict because of a public perception “that Goodwill employees get all the good stuff.” But Goodwill Industries of Central Iowa is more flexible than its Heartland counterpart. Employees can’t buy things while on the clock, but they can before or after work. No one is fired on a first violation, said Marlyn McKeen, President.

While it’s great that Goodwill wants to fight the perception of favoritism, it makes no sense to fire a worker with Down syndrome for violating a policy that doesn’t appear to have been violated. Goodwill should reconsider its actions and show a little good will towards their workers.

Firing of Goodwill worker with Down syndrome raises questions [Lancaster Eagle Gazette]