If You Think You've Been Unlawfully Terminated, Take These Steps to Make It Right

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 22, 2024 at 3:49PM UTC

What happens if you’ve been terminated — by what seems to be no fault of your own?

That question was on the mind of a Fairygodboss community member, who “was recently terminated after submitting my cancer treatment schedule to my boss, the owner of the company.”

“He never offered any compassion, empathy, nothing,” the FGBer wrote. “He started threatening my job almost weekly for unfounded reasons almost immediately after finding out about my diagnosis. Every time he did this I was able to produce proof to the contrary of whatever his current complaint was. He became more and more of a bully when he realized I was not going anywhere and I was not going to be pushed out.”

“It has been a nightmare,” they added. “I stayed as long as I did because I was scared that another employer would not want to hire someone who would eventually be undergoing cancer treatment. I am a single female and need to work to support myself, so this has been a huge fear. I almost rejected my treatment because I was fearful that he would fire me! He let me go 3.5 hours after I turned in my treatment schedule, this after not saying one word to me the entire morning.”

The poster asked for advice on how to deal with her unlawful termination, and here’s what our community had to say.

1. File a complaint with the EEOC.

The EEOC is your first point of contact.

“File a complaint with the EEOC immediately,” one FGB member advised. “They will conduct an investigation to determine if you were terminated unlawfully because of cancer. Sounds like you have plenty of documentation that you were continuing to do your job more than adequately. Even if the company is too small to be obligated to hold your job during your treatment FMLA, they are obligated under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide reasonable accommodation to you during your treatment. That is a federal law, regardless of what state you live/work in. Firing you for your cancer or treatment is also against federal law.”

2. Look into state/local laws.

Another member urged the poster to look into additional laws, writing, “Your health is the most important thing of all. Focus on that and the career will happen when you're ready and healed. ….There may be other laws, especially in your state, that can help you.”

3. Call an attorney.

“Please find yourself an employment attorney ASAP,” one member urged the poster. “Based on the facts provided, it sounds like you have a strong claim for discrimination based on disability (cancer meets the definition of disability under Equal Employment law). If you are able to successfully sue for (or settle) a discrimination claim, your former employer will likely be required to compensate you for lost wages.”

“I'd talk to an employment attorney and compile any documentation you have, even written notes of dates/times things happened,” another agreed. “Even if the state is employer favored, the country has things in place to protect employees. Medical conditions are often protected. Also, there are steps that have to be taken to let people go and it sounds like he to none so at the very least you'd likely be able to get unemployment.”

4. See what assistance is available to you.

And finally, it’s important to be aware that there is additional support and assistance available to you. 

“I’m so sorry this happened to you,” Victoria Rego wrote. “I lost my job after my treatment was completed, and I was provided unpaid leave and yet working for a company for 18 years. Please contact Cancer and Careers they can provide you with a state-specific course of action. They can provide you with a lot of helpful information.”


Please note: We are not legal authorities. If you believe you have been unlawfully terminated, we suggest seeking legal assistance immediately.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is an editor and writer based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab-mix Hercules. She primarily focuses on education, technology and career development. She has worked with Penguin Random House, Fairygodboss, CollegeVine, BairesDev and many other publications and organizations. Her humor writing has appeared in the Belladonna, Weekly Humorist, Slackjaw, Little Old Lady Comedy, and Points in Case. She also writes fiction and essays, which have appeared in publications including The Memoirist and The Avalon Literary Review. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for someone who believes they were unlawfully terminated? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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