Harris Ranch sued after firing worker who took medical leave for cancer treatment

A woman filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against her employer for allegedly firing her after she took medical leave to undergo chemotherapy following breast cancer surgery. She had been working for the company for more than 20 years.

Yolanda Alcala was employed as a meat trimmer at Harris Ranch Beef Company’s facility in Selma, California. According to the complaint filed in Fresno County Superior Court, Alcala was a “dedicated and hardworking employee” who received attendance bonuses on a regular basis and “was well-liked” by supervisors and coworkers. Her lawsuit alleged retaliation, disability discrimination, failure to reasonably accommodate and failure to engage in an interactive process.

Alcala took medical leave to have surgery in July 2017 after being diagnosed with breast cancer. According to the lawsuit, she tried returning to work a month later but had a hard time finishing her shift due to the aftereffects of chemotherapy. Alcala said a human resources employee allegedly told her she would be fired if she was unable to work for three months.

Despite the threat of termination, Alcala submitted her doctor’s note for additional medical leave. The suit alleged that while she was on leave, a company representative called her to the office. During a meeting, Alcala was informed that her employment was terminated because she had used up all her available leave. The lawsuit pointed out that she had more than 101 hours of unused vacation time and over 103 sick hours available.

Employees are legally allowed to take 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, as well as the California Family Rights Act. It is illegal for employers to fire employees for taking this leave. The leave can be used for many reasons, including a chronic illness, recovery from surgery and intensive treatments such as chemotherapy.

If you have been wrongfully terminated for taking medical leave, discuss your case with the knowledgeable employment lawyers at McCormack & Erlich.

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