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PITTSBURGH - Regional grocery chain Giant Eagle has reached an undisclosed settlement with a former employee with Down syndrome who sued the company for firing him after he ate half a donut and put the other half back in the box for sale, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
A federal jury on Thursday ruled that the chain had violated the rights of David Warnes, 37, of Bethel Park, under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, before the jury could decide on a damage award, the parties hashed out an agreement that will remain secret, and Warnes quietly left the courthouse with his family.
"We disagreed with the jury's verdict, but we thought it was appropriate to reach a settlement," Rob Borella, director of corporate communications for Giant Eagle, told the newspaper.
Warnes' lawyers, civil rights attorney Timothy O'Brien and Mark Murphy of the Disabilities Law Project, said the supermarket fired Warnes in 2002 after he ate half a donut from an Entenmann's bakery display in the Village Square store in Bethel Park.
"We argued that he didn't understand the consequences of his action," said Murphy, deputy executive director of the Law Project.
Borella said Warnes was fired after he put the half-eaten part back in the box on the shelf, where it could be purchased by customers. He also said Warnes had a history of workplace problems.
Borella also pointed out that Giant Eagle employs hundreds of people with disabilities and is recognized for giving them opportunities to advance.
Last October, the U.S. Department of Labor honored the grocery chain with a New Freedom Initiative Award under a program started by President Bush for "outstanding employment practices toward people with disabilities," according to a news release.