Your Wife Has Cancer? You’re Fired
After telling his employer that his wife of 23 years had lung cancer and he would need to work a modified schedule to help care for her, Carl Sorabella was fired from him job. ABC News reports that Kathy Sorabella learned in late April that she had stage 4 incurable cancer. Her husband asked his employer of 14 years, Haynes Management, a real estate company in Wellesley Hills, Massaschusetts, to work a more flexible schedule. This was the response he got:
“When I told my boss, she said ‘We were thinking about laying you off.’ I thought, ‘You can’t do that,’” Sorabella told WCVB.
“Ultimately she said don’t worry about it and come in on Monday, and when I came in on Monday I got a letter that I would be laid off,” he said. Sorabella said the letter stated he was being laid off due to “workforce modifications.” But one week after he was fired, he says he saw a listing for his job on the company website.
“She said, ‘It’s business. I’m running a company here, and I need to make sure the department runs.’ And I argued that I would make sure the company runs,” Sorabella said.
Sorabella, an accountant, is currently speaking to a lawyer and is considering contacting the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. But because Haynes Management has only about 20 employees, he faces an uphill battle.
David Frank, a legal analyst with Lawyers Weekly, says that the Family and Medical Leave Act only applies to private employers who have 50 or more employees who work within 75 miles of the worksite. This federal law gives employees “up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for serious health conditions or to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition.” Despite Haynes Management’s size, the company makes millions in annual sales.
Sorabella and his wife are currently relying on his unemployment and her disability insurance. On top of everything, they have $60,000 worth of graduate school loans for Kathy Sorabella’s studies in psychotherapy. Despite the nausea from chemotherapy, she is considering getting a part-time job.
ABC News notes that her cancer “had not spread as far as initially believed, though she will not know if she has a year or 10 years to live until her next CAT scan in three months.” She says that she and her husband are “just spending time with each other.”
I’ve spent most of the past ten years juggling a full-time job and caring for a child who’s moderately to severely autistic and has lots of needs. It’s not easy but it can be done. I’ve been fortunate to have a job with a very flexible schedule, but I have work a lot at home and in the middle of the night — and whenver — to get everything done. Of course Haynes Management is a “business” but it seems the company should at least have given Carl Sorabella, a long-time employee. a chance by accommodating his requests instead of simply showing him the door.
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