Earlier this month, Sinclair Broadcast Group fired 22 year old reporter Alex George while she was on leave receiving treatment for cancer. She was a reporter for WTVC in Chattanooga.
In May of this year, a teary eyed Ms. George announced on air “I’m going to be taking a medical leave, I have a malignant tumor so I’m going back home to Philadelphia for treatment to kick some cancer butt and come right back here.” Ms. George’s determination to beat cancer and return to her job generated a tremendous amount of support in the Chattanooga area. Residents there raised thousands of dollars for her treatment and even organized a run in her honor. In September of this year, she was voted Best Columnist/Reporter in the Times Free Press Best of the Best awards.
In October, WTVC said on its official twitter account: “Alex, we are so proud of you, and wish you the very best as you continue to show cancer who’s boss!”
Two months later, Ms George’s supervisors at the station called to give her some bad news. Sinclair Broadcasting was terminating her six months before her employment contract ended.
Sinclair broadcasting refused to comment on the situation but referred media requests to a public relations firm representing the company. In an issued statement, the PR group said: “Sinclair not only provides leave and other accommodations as required by law, but also routinely provides additional time off and other benefits above and beyond what is legally required.”
Can Sinclair Legally Fire A Reporter For Taking Leave To Fight Cancer?
Companies sometimes are not allowed to discriminate against an individual for taking medial leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. Further, the Americans with Disabilities Act, can provide protection to individuals as well. These laws will apply to employers who meet certain qualifications. Other causes of action may exist such as breach of contract. Some Tennessee state laws also provide protections to employees in these circumstances.
Each case is different and it is important to speak with an attorney who is experienced in handling these types of cases. Our firm handles claims under the FMLA, the ADA, and many other related claims on a regular basis. If you have questions about which, if any, of these protections may apply to your particular situation, please contact us for a free consultation.