Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sometimes the "Health" Part isn't the Problem

Via Kevin, MD and The Washington Times, "a medical secretary for New York Knicks surgeon Dr. W. Norman Scott alleges she was abruptly fired when she returned to work after breast cancer treatment." DeVito was allegedly asked by the office administrator, "Well, are they going to give you a wig for work?" She was fired after returning to work after chemotherapy, and has filed an EEOC complaint.

In the comments of Kevin's post, one individual responds with an anecdote of hearing a VP of her company respond to a manager's leukemia by stating, "it would be cheaper for us if she just f***ing died instead of sucking us for disability payments." Another commentor states that, after letting her workplace know she had to be off for an oncology appointment, "I was told by the office manager, with no one around, 'Great you're f'n dying, you should have told us sooner.'"

I'm not sure EEOC laws actually apply in cases of extended leave due to cancer, as it would likely not be a work-related illness or disabilty. Terrible as the stories may be, employers typically have the right to fire people for absences regardless of how valid the cause seems. It may be that the EEOC law is being invoked because if the employee was fired due to no longer having pretty hair (?!?!), that might be conceived as sex discrimination. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act does provide for up to 12 unpaid weeks of leave for reasons including "to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition." To be eligible, she would have had to have been employed for at least a year, there would have to be 50 or more employees at her worksite, and there has to be some paperwork/advance approval. The story does not address whether these requirements were met or applicable.

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MeSH Tags: Employment; Sick Leave; FMLA (keyword)


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