Medical Group Settles EEOC Suit over Firing Employee with Cancer

July 23, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A White Marsh, Maryland, medical practice will pay $125,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that alleged the firm refused to return to work an employee who had recovered from breast cancer surgery.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Medical Health Group violated the Americans With Disabil­ities Act (ADA) when it discriminated against Barbara Metzger by firing her when she tried to return to her job after recovering from serious surgical complications.

The EEOC said that about one week before her approved medical leave ended, Metzger was called into work on May 31, 2007, when she told her employer that she intended to work without interruption while undergoing her remaining chemotherapy sessions and radiation therapy for her cancer. The practice administrator then cited examples of people she knew whose cancer treatments made them too sick to work.

At the meeting, Metzger was presented with a termination letter that stated she was being fired because she was “currently unable to return to work on a full-time basis. Due to the seriousness of your illness, and extended nature of the treatment required . . . we must exercise our option to permanently fill your position.”

EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru said in a news release: “A woman who is bravely battling breast cancer has enough of a challenge without having to lose her job because of unlawful discrimination.” According to t he EEOC, Metzger had been employed as a referral clerk for the practice for nearly 25 years and was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2007.

More EEOC information about how employers should deal with employees being treated for cancer is at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/cancer.html .

A Pittsburgh hospital charged similarly with firing an employee because she had cancer agreed in May to pay $100,000 and furnish other equitable relief to settle an EEOC disability discrimination lawsuit (see Hospital Accused of Firing Employee for Having Cancer ).

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