Michaels Stores to Pay $8M for Firing Employee with Cancer

September 10, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A jury has found that Michaels Stores violated federal labor laws in its treatment and termination of an employee who was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

According to news reports, Kara Jorud was awarded a total of $8.1 million in compensation from Michaels – $4 million for pain and suffering, $4 million for punitive damages, and $100,000 for lost wages. The judge in the case reserved the right to increase the award for lost wages up to $1 million.  

Jorud had worked for three years at a Michaels location in Shuesberry, Massachusetts, before being transferred to the Boca Raton, Florida, location in September 2005 to turn around the store’s reportedly failing operations. Shortly after, Jorud was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy.  

Jorud said she had taken a six-week medical leave following her surgery, but a week after she had the surgery, her manager starting calling her daily to ask her when she planned to return to work, according to the Palm Beach Post. She alleged that when she came back to work, he continually harassed her, questioning her need for time off.   

Jorud contacted human resources and was promised relief, but nothing happened. She was fired in October 2008 after her fiance and his son came to the store to help her move merchandise to make way for more inventory, because she was weak from the effects of chemotherapy. Michaels said she violated company policy by letting unauthorized people into the store.  

Jorud’s lawsuit alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, and wrongful termination.