Woman Fired for Having Cancer

A long-time bank employee is suing her former employer for allegedly discriminating against her due to her breast cancer diagnosis and for terminating her employment for bogus reasons.

Catherine Felix-Melniszyn began working for Valley National Bank as a teller in 1997, according to her lawsuit. Felix-Melniszyn claims she regularly received positive performance reviews, praise from supervisors and coworkers, and merit-based bonuses and raises. In 2013 she became head teller at a Valley branch in New York City.

In November 2016 Felix-Melniszyn underwent a mammogram resulting in an indication she might have breast cancer. She claims she promptly informed her supervisors and some coworkers of the possibility she might have cancer.

The next month further testing indicated she in fact did have breast cancer. Again, she informed her supervisors of the diagnosis and that she would need to take two periods of medical leave for treatment and surgery – February 13 to April 5, 2017 and October 16 to November 6, 2017, according to the complaint.

Felix-Melniszyn claims that after she disclosed her diagnosis, a supervisor, Angie Agerios, began treating her with hostility and making discriminating remarks about her medical condition. Those remarks included “You look pale”, “What’s wrong with you?”, and“You’re losing too much weight,” the complaint states.

Shortly after returning from her second medical leave in November 2017, Felix-Melniszyn was called to a meeting with Agerios and another supervisor where she was fired, according to the complaint. The reason she was given for the termination was that customers and coworkers complained about her cursing. Felix-Melniszyn claims that she had never been informed of or shown any such complaints, others she worked with regularly used profanities, and she was the only employee she knew of who was terminated on that basis.

“In reality, Valley terminated . . . Felix-Melniszyn’s employment because of her disability and related need to take medical leave,” according to the complaint. Felix-Melniszyn is represented by The Harman Firm of New York who brought the case in the Southern District of New York.