Benefits

Don’t Fire Employees After a Cancer Diagnosis

By Jon Hyman

Oct. 7, 2014

You can’t escape the fact that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink is everywhere. Women are wearing pink everything. Buildings are ablaze in pink lights. And NFL games are awash in pink arm sleeves, handkerchiefs, and end-zone paint.

So, it’s appropriate that I bring you the story of a Chicagoland woman allegedly forced off her employer’s health insurance after her breast-cancer diagnosis, and later fired for complaining about it.

From the Chicago Tribune:

When Harrington [the employee] learned that she had an abnormal mammogram, the suit said, Quinlan [the employer] began pressuring her to get off of the company’s group health insurance policy. Quinlan forced her off the policy the next month, according to the suit, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed treatment.

Quinlan became angry with her for complaining about not being on the insurance policy, according to the suit, saying that insurance costs would be much higher with her on the policy. Quinlan then fired Harrington, the suit claims.

There is little doubt that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects cancer as a disability. While a lawsuit is nothing more than a statement of unproven facts, if there is any truth to the allegations in this lawsuit, this employer is going to have big problems.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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