Sunday, May 09, 2010
Fired For Having the Cancer Gene?
No employer would possibly let go an employee with a stellar record simply because of genetic test results. Or would they?
Pamela Fink of Hartford, Conn., says that’s exactly what happened to her. Fink, 39, claims that her supervisors at MXenergy practiced disability discrimination when they first demoted her and eventually dismissed her after she underwent a voluntary double mastectomy. Fink went through the grueling operation at the suggestion of physicians who found that she possesed a gene implicated in breast cancer. Pamela Fink and her two sisters each were tested in 2004 and all three tested positive for the breast cancer gene, BARC2. Fink’s sisters were both diagnosed with cancer and both survived after receiving treatment.
MXenergy, a natural gas and electricity supplier, previously had promoted Pamela Fink, who had received glowing reviews during her time at the company. Fink claims that MXenergy’s attitude changed, however, once she informed her bosses of her test results. According to her complaints filed with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights, she was relieved of her duties as public relations director at MXenergy in March about a year after her double mastectomy. Fink was shocked that the consultant MXenergy had hired while she was in recovery was now her boss when she returned back to work. Her title, most of her responsibilities and her office all had been taken from her after the first surgery. Six weeks after her second mastectomy, Fink was fired and escorted out of the MXenergy office building.
Both commissions are interested in Fink’s case because it is the first known case in the country to be filed based on the Federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which went into effect last November. The law strictly prohibits health care providers as well as employers from practicing discrimination based on a person’s genetic information. Fink’s lawyer claims that under the new laws, MXenergy’s treatment of her was absolutely unlawful. MXenergy denies the allegations and has yet to release a formal statement related to Fink’s charges.