The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Woman Claims She Was Fired Because Of Discrimination of Disability

Margaret Walsh, a former employee at the Oakton Community College's Business Institute, has filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination of disability because of her cancer diagnosis, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. She claims her ovarian cancer diagnosis, which she told her supervisor less than a year before her termination, is the reason she was fired.

Instead of contacting an Illinois employment lawyer and launching a state lawsuit, Margaret Walsh filed a discrimination complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. An EEOC spokesman said it has not yet decided whether it intends to sue the employer and declined to comment.

A senior manager of the Des Plaines-based Business Institute, Margaret Walsh was approved for an unpaid leave of absence that ended in May of last year.

She worked part time upon her return but claims she was told she needed to go back to full time, against doctor's orders. She did so anyway but became seriously ill about a month later. She took another unpaid leave to receive the necessary treatment but received a termination letter weeks later citing "the unfortunate timing and length of your need to be out of work while serving in a probationary status."

Margaret Walsh was hired in November 2008 and her time on unpaid leave did not count toward the 65-day probationary period for new employees. She said she believes it was just a way "to get rid of me because I had cancer."

Workers with disabilities must be provided with "reasonable accommodations" for their disabilities, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, unless it would create an undue hardship for the employer. Working part-time is generally considered one such reasonable accommodation, according to Karen Ward, an Illinois employment lawyer working with the advocacy group Equip for Equality.

She said that even if the college could prove an undue hardship, canceling an accommodation "without any reassessment or notice" raises a red flag.

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