2011-01-26 / Front Page

Home Depot Turns Screws On ‘Friendliest’ Cashier

An 80-year-old former Home Depot supervisor is suing the home improvement giant for age discrimination, after she was fired for ringing up four 6-cent screws to get cash back on her debit card to avoid ATM fees. Or so they say, according to Ellen Strickland.

Strickland, a 19-year employee, was fired from the Ozone Park Home Depot store in September after she rang up the screws but didn’t take them, according to court papers filed in Queens Civil Court.

Strickland said she didn’t usually carry cash, so she would buy a pack of gum for $1 plus tax at her register to get $40 cash back, to avoid ATM fees. 

Another worker saw the transaction and told her there was another, cheaper way to get the cash, Strickland said. “The other cashiers were purchasing a screw for 6-cents and then getting the cash back,” she said.

Strickland, who worked as a bookkeeping assistant for 15-years before she moved to a register, held the store’s perfect attendance record, held a stellar “wait to checkout” time and was named the “friendliest cashier” last year.

After she purchased screws four times on her own register to get cash back, she was called in on September 1 for a meeting with the store’s loss-prevention manager, Strickland said. 

“They told me it was a company infraction and inventory was screwing up,” she declared.

The next day, following “a full investigation”, Strickland was fired. “They told me there was no way I would be rehired,” Strickland said. 

“For 17 years, I’ve handled millions of dollars for the entire region in Queens and they fired me for 4-cents,” she said. “There was not one penny missing.”

Strickland’s “actions resulted in manipulation of inventory”, Home Depot said, according to court documents filed in the case.

Strickland’s attorney, Ester Tannenbaum, said her client’s firing is a blatant case of age discrimination and that she was canned despite “a flawless record”.

Strickland performed an action that was common practice among store employees, the lawsuit states. 

“Plaintiff was the only employee terminated for this action, while younger employees were not,” her attorney states.

Strickland was rated a “top performer” and “valued associate” in her last evaluation  three days before she was fired. 

Strickland said the store became a second home for her after her husband passed away five years ago.

“I enjoyed getting up and going to work every day”, she said. “I looked forward to seeing the kids, and the job helped fill a void,” she declared.

Officials at the Home Depot store in Ozone Park did not return calls for comment.

–Liz Goff

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