A grandmother diagnosed with breast cancer in October said that her request for a leave of absence so that she could recover from a double mastectomy led to her termination.
Laura Garcia, whose age was not reported, worked as a billing specialist for Touchstone Imagining, a nationwide company that performs MRIs, X-rays, CAT scans, ultrasounds and mammograms, Fox31 reported. Garcia said she requested two months to recover from her surgery, which was scheduled for Tuesday.
“At that time, I was told I would have to resign or be terminated since I had only been there for six months,” Garcia told Fox31. According to the news channel, her cancer was discovered at a Touchstone Imaging location.
“I asked if there was anything I could do in order to keep my job and [human resources] said if she gave you an exception, then she would have to give everybody else an exception,” Garcia told Fox31.
Garcia’s local supervisor sent an email to the company’s corporate leadership asking for clarification on the leave of absence policy.
According to Garcia, the response in part said, “The information from the handbook stating that she’s not eligible for LOA (Leave of Absence) or FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) suffices. Upon her last day please complete a termination form.”
An employment attorney who is not working on Garcia’s case told Fox31 that the company’s conduct seems “illegal.” Paula Greisen said that while Garcia doesn’t qualify for the FMLA because she had been employed less than 12 months, she does qualify for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“It’s really somebody who’s being kicked while they’re down. [Termination] not only takes away a person’s income but at a critical time in person’s life, they take aware her access to health insurance,” Greisen told Fox31.
Fox31 reached out to Touchstone Imaging to inquire about why Garcia did not qualify for either policy.
“We believe that we have made it clear to Laura that we look forward to her returning to work at Touchstone following her recovery. ‘Fired’ is certainly not the correct term which would infer that she has a performance problem and in which case we would not welcome her back,” CEO Pat Rice told the news channel in an email.
Rice further said that the company is “happy to accommodate Laura’s personal preferences to remain an active employee at this time. We originally processed her absence in an administrative way that we felt was consistent with Federal guideline, knowing all long that she had a workplace family to come back to as soon as she was able. This was not communicated clearly, and we sincerely apologize.”
The reversal came hours after Garcia applied for Medicaid to pay for the surgery.