$300K Settlement for Woman Fired by Hospital After Cancer Surgery

A California woman who was fired from her job in a hospital after asking for more time off following a double mastectomy in 2012 will receive a $300,000 settlement to resolve the federal disability discrimination lawsuit that was filed following the incident.

The woman, Imelda Tamayo, was an office worker in the endocrinology department at Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, which is affiliated with the University of California-San Francisco, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2011, according to a Feb. 11 story in The San Francisco Chronicle. Tamayo, who had worked at the hospital since March 2009, underwent a double mastectomy following her diagnosis and then went out on two months of medical leave to recover from the surgery.

With her leave about to expire in July 2012, “she asked for an extension and presented a doctor’s note saying she could return to work in September,” the story reported, but “hospital supervisors denied the request and fired her. They later explained that Tamayo’s department was short-staffed, an additional leave would cause hardships, and they were uncertain she would be ready to work in September.”

After her firing, she filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about her situation and the agency filed a lawsuit in her behalf in December 2013, the story reported. “The EEOC determined that accommodating Tamayo’s request would not have posed an undue hardship for the medical center,” the agency said in a statement at the time.  “Treating a qualified employee unfavorably because of a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.”

The EEOC tried to resolve the case with the hospital initially, but eventually filed a lawsuit in the Oakland Division of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

In reaching the settlement, Children’s Hospital “agreed to offer extended leave to employees who have serious medical conditions and to train managers on issues involving discrimination against the disabled” in future similar situations, the Chronicle reported.

“Tamayo, in a statement issued through the federal agency, said she was glad the hospital has changed its policy,” the paper reported. “I was devastated by the loss of my job and health insurance,” Tamayo said. Her cancer is now in remission.

A report by the San Jose Mercury News said that hospital will also now provide anti-discrimination training under the settlement.

“We take employment law obligations seriously and have worked to resolve the complaint to everyone’s satisfaction,” the hospital said in a statement, according to the paper. “We believe this has been accomplished in this situation.”

Children’s Hospital and Research Center is a non-profit organization with 30 medical specialties, over 200 doctors, and 2,500 employees at multiple sites in Oakland and the surrounding area, according to the EEOC.

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