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Cancer doc says he was fired for FMLA advocacy

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

The Pennsylvania State University Medical Center is being sued by a cancer surgeon who alleges he was fired in retaliation for defending the FMLA rights of his secretary—who was fighting cancer.

The doctor lost his position at the hospital in March. He claims his termination resulted from his complaints concerning treatment his secretary received from medical center management after she told them she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Before his termination, the doctor had been a program director for the Penn State Cancer Institute. He maintains the secretary requested reasonable accommodations in the run-up to her cancer treatments, as well as 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave. Before she went out on leave, she had difficulty concentrating, something the doctor and other institute physicians considered perfectly normal in someone facing a potentially fatal cancer.

However, the doctor claims surgery department officials refused to provide the accommodations and even harassed the woman over her FMLA requests. The complaint alleges the secretary was called to a disciplinary hearing where her accommodation requests were denied and she was told she had to stay at her desk. The officials allegedly told her that if she was unable to perform her job, she should begin her FMLA leave early.

The doctor claims he complained to the surgery department chairman, who in turn threatened his job. De­­spite more complaints up the chain of command, the doctor says no one investigated the FMLA allegations.

The medical center has denied any wrongdoing.

Note: Employers that deny reasonable accommodations must provide data to show the accommodation was unreasonable given the employer’s size and the amount of workplace disruption accommodating the em­­ployee would create.

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