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A woman who worked at a Long Island neurological surgery center has filed a lawsuit against her former employer for harassing and firing her after she revealed she had been diagnosed with cancer. According to the lawsuit, the woman told the head doctor of the surgery center about the diagnosis, and asked him to keep it confidential. However, within weeks everybody in the office knew about her cancer. The doctor mocked the plaintiff about her disease, and openly blamed her for causing the center’s insurance premiums to rise. When she began losing hair because of chemotherapy, he told her to wear a wig because she was making others “uncomfortable.” After she followed his directions, he said that she “looked good […] just like one of those Hasidic girls from Williamsburg.” After the plaintiff told the doctor that she needed to take time off for a third round of chemotherapy, he became incensed, snapping, “When is enough enough? You know who pays for it? I do!” Soon afterwards, she was fired. Discrimination for Cancer or other serious illnesses are illegal In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was amended to prohibit employers from discriminating against employees who have impairments that substantially limit a major life activity. Cancer, which limits an individual’s ability to grow healthy cells, is considered a disability under the amendment. Employers are prohibited from harassing or discriminating against employees on the basis of their cancer or any other disability. In addition, employers are required to keep employees’ medical information confidential. They are only allowed to disclose employees’ medical information under the following circumstances:
  • To notify supervisors and managers so that they can provide a reasonable accommodation
  • To first aid personnel if the employee needs treatment or assistance
  • To individuals who are investigating the employer’s compliance with the ADA
  • To process a worker’s insurance or compensation
An employer who discloses an employee’s medical information to other workers is violating the ADA. Contact the Akin Law Group for help Undergoing cancer treatment is physically and emotionally draining, and you should not have to deal with harassment and discrimination at work on top of it. If your employer ridicules, disciplines or discriminates against you after you reveal that you have been diagnosed with cancer or any other serious illness, contact the Akin Law Group at 866.685.5163. Our lawyers will notify you of your rights and help you determine the best course of action.