Physical disability, real or imagined, can be reason for wrongfully terminating a person's employment. California residents may be interested to hear that a former casting and development executive with E! News has commenced a wrongful termination lawsuit alleging that she was fired because treatment for breast cancer altered her appearance and adversely affected her performance.
The woman joined E! in 2009 and rose to become the senior vice president of talent development and casting. Her strong relationships with several celebrities, including Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, aided her professional success. In 2014, the woman was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The illness appeared to disappear, but she developed lymphedema, a complication of treatment that caused significant swelling in one of her arms. The complaint alleges that the woman continued to perform her job duties in spite of suffering pain and discomfort and negative comments from management regarding her "sickly appearance." The plaintiff alleges that an E! executive suggested to her that she wear a loose-fitting poncho to cover her arm during her annual review.
The woman's employment was terminated shortly after the review, which was unfavorable. The lawsuit names E! News and NBCUniversal as defendants and alleges that the firing of the plaintiff constitutes discrimination, retaliation, breach of contract and wrongful termination. According to the complaint, the plaintiff was terminated because of the decline in her appearance. The complaint alleges that she was replaced by a "younger, less experience, physically attractive and cancer-free individual." E! News has not answered the complaint or otherwise commented on the case.
This case is in its very early stages, and the outcome cannot be predicted with any certainty. However, as a cancer survivor, the plaintiff will make a very sympathetic witness. Any person who has experienced adverse treatment by an employer after suffering a serious illness or surgery may wish to consult an employment law attorney an evaluation of the facts of the case and the likelihood of recovering damages for lost wages and mental anguish.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Casting Exec Sues E! for Wrongful Termination Following Breast Cancer Treatment," Ashley Cullins, Oct. 27, 2016