Is Contracting Cancer a Fireable Offense?

by Derek Loosvelt | June 16, 2011

This is a sad but true, unsettling and infuriating, and unbelievable-that-it's-within-American-law-for-a-corporation-to-do-something-as-evil-as-this story.

carl sorabellaA month ago, an accountant named Carl Sorabella, a 14-year employee of a Massachusetts real estate company called Haynes Management, found out his wife had terminal lung cancer. Sorabella, who at the end of 2010 was given a raise for a job well done, promptly told his boss about his wife's sickness, explaining that his hours would likely be erratic in the upcoming months, offering to work a flex schedule as a result, and promising he'd get all his work done on-time, as usual. In response, Sorabella's boss promptly told him, "You know, Carl, we've been thinking about laying you off."

A few days later, he was laid off. And told that, "You know, Carl, we're running a business here."

Of course, Carl (pictured above) was devastated.

Now, you might think (like I did upon first hearing about this) that Carl has a pretty open and shut case against his employer. Discrimination or some other charge has to be able to be used against Haynes in a court of law.

But this is not the case.

In fact, Haynes Management, as a private employer with fewer than 50 employees, is fully within its legal rights to can Carl. Or whomever else it wants to sack for that matter. Only companies with more than 50 employees working within 75 miles of their offices are unable to let someone go in such a fashion. It's part of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Which leaves Carl and his wife with only his unemployment checks, her disability leave, and no health care coverage.

However, there is a chrome, if not quite silver, lining to Haynes' evil deed inspired by greed.

One thing that Haynes Management didn't bargain for when it told Carl to take a hike was the strength of the media. That is, after the story appeared in varoius outlets, including ABC News, there have been several efforts made by those who've come across Carl's story to boycott Haynes and to get the word out for others to boycott Haynes. And, given that governments such as Egypt were able to be toppled thanks to mobilizing efforts through social media sites and email, I'd bet a good part of my paycheck that Haynes' days are numbered.

I'd also wager (or, at the very least, pray) that lawmakers in Massachusetts and other states begin to move to close this loophole in the Family and Medical Leave Act. To be able to fire a long-time employee because he or she needs to care for a family member -- just in order to save a few bucks -- is sick.

(ABC News: Man Says He Was Fired After Telling Employer His Wife Has Cancer)

Filed Under: Finance


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