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I think I got fired because I had cancer

Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2009

I was diagnoised with NHL back in April 2008. At the time I was working for AT&T Wireless as a sales consultant. AT&T did have a good medical program and I was able to take FMLA for about 6 months so I could go through Chemo treatments, two operations and seven trips to the hospital. I went back to work in late October 2008 and was told shortly after that I was in remission.

Upon my return to work I was finding it had to concentrate on what I was doing. I also had trouble with multi-tasking and found myself having to write down alot of things such as logins and passwords and steps in completing certain processes.

On May 18 of this year I was fired from my job for misconduct. AT&T claimed that I had put data features on a customers account without their knowledge. The customer had bought a new phone and part of company policy is to add a data feature package to the account in order for the customer to get a phone at a lesser price. It was also required in order to get the mail-in rebate. The customer was aware of this but the only thing I did wrong was to not add the feature at the time of sale but rather I added it later. I had simply forgotten to add the feature at the time of sale.

What I am wondering here is if I might have a case due to what is know as chemo brain. I have read some articles about it but dont know if it might be a good enough reason to support my case. I truly believe my ability to perform my job may have been caused by chemo brain even though my last treatment was in October 2008. I have read that the effects of chemo treatments can last for up to two years.

I have been in the wireless business for over 12 years and I am a family man with a wife and two kids so I had nothing to gain here by trying to pull a fast one past a customer.

slickwilly's picture
Posts: 339
Joined: Feb 2007

I faced all the issues you mention in your letter. I returned to work right after my treatments and almost had a breakdown. I worked in a prison and my first night back someone thought they were doing me a favor by putting me in the control center. I had the prison radio, 64 cameras, 7 video monitors, a fence break system, 2 phones and 7 electric gates to operate. I could barely do one thing at a time and working in this environment required constant movement and memory that I didn't have. And I would imagine that you didn't even realize you had this problem until you returned to work. I thought my brain was ok until I want back to work.
Anyway I spent 6 months doing crossword puzzles to make my mind work again. I still have some memory issues but I am much better now.
I don't know if you have a case for legal action. I would bet AT&T is pretty good at covering their bases. But talking to a lawyer would not hurt and usually the first meeting is free. And having some sort of documentation from a doctor would not hurt. If you have a union and have never received a write up I would imagine you could file an appeal. At this point you have nothing to lose. I am sorry though as I understand exactly what happened. I was lucky enough to have people that were willing to work with me. I had supervisors that tried to help me and understood what I was going through. Best of luck to you and your family. Slickwilly

Posts: 26
Joined: Jun 2009

Yes, I think you have good cause to wonder if your firing was due to your cancer history. I was told about chemo brain when I started chemo (NHL) a few months ago. Found it hard to believe, but, truly believe chemo brain is for real. I am in remission as of this past April (09) and find that I have difficulty in areas of memory, grasping what I read and connecting with what is being said. It all eventually comes to be except for the memoriy, that seems to be the most difficult for me. I, too, make notes; I put a message board on fridge and have to write down what I need to do that day, especialliy things like pick up scripts and follow thru on commitments. My sister (lives 1200 miles away) but is my main support, keeps a calender of whatever I have (I keep two, one for desk, one for purse; problem is to keep them coordinated!!) At the least I hope you talk with a lawyer (not that that is a magical solution) but it is a beginning. Rattle your previous employers cage, rattle it loud and clear. My best wishes to you and our family. Hestia

hodgkoid2003's picture
Posts: 94
Joined: Apr 2009

Wow. Discrimination is such a tough thing to prove, even with the ADA and FMLA on your side. The truth is, even since their inceptions, there are still loopholes all over the place.

I have worked for a large company now for over 12 years. But I remember when I first returned to work (almost 20 years ago), and chose to look for another job, the "discrimination monster" destroyed me, mentally. After feeling like I had accomplished so much by beating cancer, I was now facing a "scarlet letter" if you will, seemingly forever.

All is not lost though. I have learned in working for this big company, and a long the way, some of the things you can do to protect yourself. The fact that you came back to your job is a testament. That means that you were capable of doing your job. So, the next thing that would have to be looked at, is performance. Do you have reviews? In other words, even with a bad review, under normal cirumstances, an employee is given an opportunity to improve. How many mistakes do we hear about in hospitals, and no one is fired. One transgression, not even involving theft, is very suspicious. So, if you do have reviews, and besides your FMLA absences, your record is good, and you aren't antagonistic with manangement (like I can be), I would contact an attorney.

As for "chemo brain", I do believe in that, and medicine is starting to recognize it, but I doubt it would be helpful to bring up legally at this time.

I hope this helps.

Paul E. (Hodgkoid2003)

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