Breast Cancer Survivor Says She Was Fired for Accommodation Request

An interior designer suffering from stage IV metastatic breast cancer is suing her firm for terminating her employment immediately after she requested Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for medical treatment.

According to the lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Illinois, Julie Alton was hired by Smithgroup Johnson Johnson & Roy Inc., a large integrated design firm in February 2017. Alton claims she was the only interior designer that worked in the component within Smithgroup that focused on the health care industry.

In September 2017, Alton “was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer that had metastasized to the bones in her skull, back and femur, and into her liver and lungs,” the complaint states.

Alton claims that, during her tenure with Smithgroup, she met and exceeded expectations and was liked and praised by her clients. She claims that, while receiving treatment for her breast cancer, she was still able to bill between 40 and 45 hours a week.

On May 18, 2018 Alton contacted Alina Rudman, Smithgroup’s human resources director, to request FMLA leave so she could receive additional treatment for her cancer. Alton and Rudman met on May 22, 2018 to discuss the leave request.  Alton had already provided the company’s request for leave form and certification from her doctor about her status. Rudman however told Alton she would need more information.

On May 29, Alton’s physician sent Rudman additional information including that Alton would need to receive treatment every three weeks and that she would need to work part-time from the end of May until the end of November.

On June 1, 2018 Alton claims she was called into a meeting and told her employment was terminated and that the reason was there wasn’t enough work for her to do. Alton also claims that the day before she was informed, at an interior designers’ meeting, that she would be “fully-booked for the months of June and July with her typical projected hours of 40-45 billable hours her week.” In addition, she was to start a new project in July that would likely keep her “fully-booked for a number of years,” the complaint states.

Alton claims that she was eligible for FMLA leave, was denied it in violation of the law, and Smithgroup retaliated against her for requesting it by terminating her.

Alton is represented by Brian Holman of Chicago.

Image Source: williami5 (Flickr)

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