Cancer Patient Fired, Co. Must Pay $846k

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on September 15, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A California cancer patient was fired after limiting his travel during his ongoing treatment. Charles Wideman was 59 when he was discharged. He had planned on working for his employer, Acme Electric, until age 67.

Acme Electric, a Wisconsin-based company, said that they fired Wideman because he was not living up to his job duties - which included traveling to meet with customers, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

California's Fair Employment and Housing Commission disagreed, saying that the company's conduct was discriminatory. Wideman was awarded $846,000, the agency's largest award in a discrimination case, according to the Chronicle.

The majority of the six-figure award is meant to compensate Wideman for his losses. Also included in the award is a $25,000 state fine.

Wideman headed Acme Electric's largest sales region from 2004 to 2008, when he was fired, the Chronicle reports.

He underwent treatment for kidney cancer in 2006, and prostate cancer in 2007. Wideman managed to return to work shortly after each operation, but said he had to cut down on his traveling time because of his ongoing treatment, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The commission found that Acme Electric should have accommodated Wideman and reduced his traveling obligations, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Under federal law, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities. This does not include accommodations that would produce an undue hardship on employers. California's Fair Employment and Housing Act contains similar provisions, making it against state law for employers to discriminate on the basis of disability.

In coming to its conclusion, the state agency likely found that the cancer patient was fired based on his disability, which would be in violation of state law. The agency also found fault with Acme Electric's argument that they only fired Charles Wideman because of the bad economy - the company hired a successor immediately Wideman was discharged, reports the Chronicle.

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