Tennessee nurse fired during leave for chemo

Chrissy Ballard, a former nurse at Knoxville, Tenn.-based Caris Healthcare, says she was fired after taking a leave of absence to undergo treatment for breast cancer, according to Medscape

After working at Caris for eight months, Ms. Ballard was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in March. She took a 12-week leave of absence using short-term disability benefits to start treatment, which included six rounds of chemotherapy. After the 12-week period, Ms. Ballard still needed to complete her chemotherapy, have surgery and undergo radiation. She said she was surprised to learn Caris did not offer further disability benefits.

Ms. Ballard expected to return to work part-time in September. However, Caris sent Ms. Ballard a termination notice dated July 1. 

"Employee was unable to return to work due to health reasons," Caris wrote in the termination document.

Since Caris fired Ms. Ballard one month before her one-year work anniversary, the company did not have to provide unpaid leave regulated by the Family Medical Leave Act.

Caris stood behind its actions, which it asserts were legal, according to a statement cited by Medscape.

"Reasonable accommodations were extended," Caris said in the statement. "The individual has not sought to be rehired and remains eligible for rehire at Caris, with reasonable work accommodations if needed."

In August, Ms. Ballard went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which recommended mediation with Caris. The hospice company did not respond to EEOC's mediation requests. The agency did not say whether it plans to file a lawsuit against Caris.  

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