As we have previously mentioned on our San Diego employment law blog, employees are protected under federal and state laws that are meant to prevent a worker's rights from being violated in the workplace. It is important that individuals feel safe and respected while at work and employers are responsible for making sure that happens. Unfortunately, employees continue to experience discrimination in the workplace.
Last week, the former chief financial officer of a company filed a lawsuit against her employer claiming that she was discriminated against by her colleagues because she had breast cancer. The lawsuit also claims that she was demoted and then fired because of her illness.
According to the complaint, the woman was hired as the firm's CFO in1992. In November 2007, the woman learned that she had breast cancer. In order to focus on her health, the woman took cancer treatment leave. The CFO returned to work for a brief period of time, but she later decided to take three months of medical leave as well.
The CFO returned to work in August 2008 when she says she began to experience discrimination from several of her male colleagues. The lawsuit claims that the men had attempted to force the woman out of her position.
In September 2008, the woman was demoted. Although she was not happy that someone with less experience replaced her, she continued to work at the firm in a position with less responsibility and authority until she was fired in March 2011.
The 57-year-old woman is seeking $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
The emotional and financial costs of battling cancer, or any other illness, are significant. For this reason, it is important that one's job is protected while he or she takes time off of work to receive treatment. Workers who are able to return to work after medical leave and who can continue to do the same tasks should not be reprimanded for taking necessary time off to get better.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Proskauer Rose Sued by Former CFO for Discrimination," Chris Dolmetsch and Sophia Pearson, Oct. 5, 2011