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Former CFO says firm fired her for breast cancer, case settles

In Oct. 2011, the chief financial officer of one of the world's largest law firms filed a lawsuit claiming she was fired in retaliation for taking a three-month medical leave when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. According to reporters, the firm, Proskauer Rose LLP, is an international corporate law firm based in New York that reported a gross income of $763.5 million last year.

The woman had worked at Proskauer Rose for 18 years and was hearing $400,000 a year when she learned she had breast cancer in late 2007. She says she spoke with the firm's chairman, who assured her that her job was not at risk if she chose to take medical leave.

When she returned in early 2008, however, she was demoted from chief financial officer to chief administrative financial officer. There was apparently no negative information in her personnel file or employment record to justify the demotion. In March 2011, she was fired, again for no discernible legal reason.

Concluding she had been fired in retaliation for taking medical leave or because of disability discrimination, she filed suit against the firm seeking $10 million in compensation for the apparently wrongful termination. Now, a year and a half later, Proskauer Rose has agreed to settle with her -- but the terms are being kept secret.

"Proskauer is pleased to have successfully resolved the matter," was all a firm spokesperson had to say. The woman and her attorneys did not respond to reporters’ requests for comment.

We can’t know the truth about any particular allegations reported in the press, but the point is that wrongful termination, employer retaliation and disability discrimination can and does affect high-wage workers. The impetus to discriminate is deeply rooted in some people, and not even the most prestigious and highly-paid professionals are immune from being victimized.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, “Proskauer Rose settles discrimination lawsuit with former executive,” Casey Sullivan, June 14, 2013

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