Record Award For Man Fired While Recovering From Cancer Surgery

Lots of cutting-edge workplace and HR issues percolate up and out to the rest of country from here in California (where the TLNT world headquarters just happens to be located).

Here’s one worth taking a look at: a regional sales manager for an electrical supply company has been awarded a record $846,000 by the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Commission for being wrongly fired because he allegedly wasn’t spending enough time traveling to meet customers – at the same time he was recovering from cancer surgery.

At it’s heart this is a discrimination case, but as the San Francisco Chronicle notes, part of the record $864,000 fine is because of what the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Commission calls “despicable conduct” on the part of Acme Electric, based in Wisconsin. According to the commission, Acme Electric offered “factually baseless, false, pretextual and shifting reasons” for a dismissal that amounted to discrimination based on the sales manager’s disability.

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It’s always difficult and tricky when you have to terminate workers, but who fires someone recovering from cancer surgery? That’s not only dumb, but terribly insensitive and clueless to boot. Take a read and see if you agree.

A state civil rights agency has ordered an electrical supply company to pay a record $846,000 for firing its Novato-based regional sales manager on the pretext that he wasn’t spending enough time traveling to meet customers – at the same time he was recovering from cancer surgery.

The Fair Employment and Housing Commission’s award in the case of Charles Wideman is the largest payment it has ever ordered in a discrimination case, said the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which represented Wideman. Nearly all of the award is compensation for Wideman’s losses, but it also includes a $25,000 fine to the state for what the commission described as “despicable conduct” on the part of Acme Electric, based in Wisconsin.

Acme Electric’s parent company, Actuant Corp., declined comment Tuesday. The company, which argued that it had dismissed Wideman because of work deficiencies and the declining economy, could appeal the ruling in court.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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