Terminating employment during illness: What not to do

Can you spot where this employer went wrong in reacting to news of his staff member’s cancer diagnosis?

Terminating employment during illness: What not to do
It’s possibly the worst reaction you could have to your staff member’s cancer diagnosis – and it’s made worse by the fact that it was delivered to a loyal employee of 12 years service.
 
In August, Pennsylvania woman Carol Jumper was diagnosed with cancer affecting her pancreas, liver and ovaries. Shortly after telling her employer, oral surgeon Dr. George Visnich, of her diagnosis, she received a handwritten letter in the mail.
 
“You are currently engaged in a battle against cancer that will be demanding physically, mentally and emotionally,” her boss wrote in the letter, which has since gone viral.
 
“The symptoms of the disease, the pain medications you will need and the side effects of the chemotherapy will be significant and distracting.
 
“You will not be able to function in my office at the level required while battling for your life. Because of this, I am laying you off without pay as of August 11, 2014. Your last paycheck will be mailed to you this Friday, 8/15/14.”
 
The doctor has since claimed through his lawyer that the letter was sent in Jumper’s “best interests”, as it allowed her to file for unemployment benefits, which last for 26 weeks.
 
“She doesn’t have to worry about going to work, she still has a source of income, and she can concentrate her efforts on getting better,” his attorney Larry Kelly said.
 
Kelly also said the letter was sent on the understanding that Jumper would get her job back once she recovered.
 
“We haven’t reached out to her because Ms. Jumper is a woman who is undergoing very aggressive treatment and should only be worried about one thing… getting better,” he added.
 
Tim Capelin, Piper Alderman (Sydney), Belinda Winter, Cooper Grace Ward (Brisbane) and Tim Lange, Piper Alderman (Melbourne) will give a presentation on the topic of terminating ill and injured workers at the Employment Law for HR Manager masterclass events, held in November. Click here for more information and to register.
 
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