A recent Bloomberg article tells the story of Kathleen Mason, the former Chief Executive Officer of Tuesday Morning Corporation, a home goods chain, who was removed from her post on June 6th after 12 years of employment. This came about three weeks after Mason informed members of Tuesday Morning Corp's Board of Directors of her breast cancer diagnosis. Mason, who was initially diagnosed in the summer of 2011, utilized vacation time for her surgeries and scheduled doctor visits early in the morning to ensure that she could be at the office to work full days. For Mason, work proved to be a positive distraction from the stress of cancer diagnosis and treatment and she wanted to continue on her professional path.
Mason's decision to disclose came in early 2012. To quell office gossip surrounding her weight and hair loss, common side effects of the cancer treatments she underwent, Mason initially shared details of her condition with two of Tuesday Morning's directors. According to Rogge Dunn, Mason's lawyer, "Kathleen was able to do the job 100 percent. They just assumed she couldn't do it because she had cancer. Her prognosis was good, which is what she wanted to tell the board."
The article closes with an interesting question posed by Dunn - "There are a lot of people with cancer in the workplace, and people have all sorts of misperceptions and biases about it...[they] thought she might not be able to suck it up, and thought, 'we don't want to handle this.' But is it something you have to handle under the law, something you have to do morally and ethically? Yes."
Yes, morals and ethics are shaky ground. And sometimes the law can be too, especially when it comes to navigating legal issues around cancer. Visit our website to learn more about handling discrimination at work and your legal rights in the workplace.