HR Strange But True!
October 18, 2007

Cancer survivor Katie Tremul says she understands that her employer broke no law when it fired her but still finds her termination unfair and callous, especially since it was delivered by mail without warning after 12 years of employment.

Tremul was working for the City of Manassas, Virginia, when she learned that she had breast cancer in May 2006, the Washington Post reports. After the diagnosis, she underwent treatment, which included several surgeries and chemotherapy, and took long-term disability leave. She received a termination letter in the mail from the city in July 2007.

"You don't cut someone off at the knees when they're sick. And that's what they did," Tremul says. "I was fired for having cancer."

Now, she is urging the city to change its practices so that no other employees will experience what she and another government employee have, the newspaper reports.

"Bottom line: We have been terminated because we are sick," Tremul tells the City Council. "It just seems wrong, doesn't it?"

So, when can an employer terminate employment without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act? BLR legal editor Joan Farrell says it depends on a lot of factors.

"It's hard to tell exactly what the facts are in these cases, but generally speaking, an employer that's covered by the ADA can terminate employment if the employee can't perform the essential functions of the job even with a reasonable accommodation," Farrell said. "If that's what happened with these employees, the employer was within its legal rights to terminate employment.  But every situation is different, and each part of the ADA requires an individualized analysis using the facts of a particular situation."

This isn't the first time an employer's method of delivering a termination notice has caught our eye at HR Strange but True! headquarters. A while back, we had one employer who fired an employee via text message and another that gave its employees pink slips via e-mail.

Source: Washington Post

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