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  Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson

Wrongful Termination - Illness Case

According to a November 22, 2002 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, a jury awarded over $11 million to a former saleswoman for wrongful termination. Claudine Woolf was a star Mary Kay saleswoman when she discovered that she was pregnant, and also had breast cancer. The company refused to cut her $8,000 monthly sales quota despite her difficult and serious condition.

Mary Kay, Inc. defended itself with the positions that it never fired the plaintiff, and also that she was actually an independent contractor, not an employee. Therefore, as a contractor, they declared that she could not file a wrongful termination suit. 

Woolf led a team of salespersons for Mary Kay that was highly successful. Within a period of 2 weeks in 1997, Woolf found out she was pregnant and had an aggressive form of cancer. Her doctors recommended that she have an abortion since she was jeopardizing the lives of both her and her unborn child in battling the cancer. Woolf decided with her husband that they wanted to try to save both lives while continuing to work. The sales for Woolf's team began to fall during this difficult time. She asked Mary Kay to reduce her sales quota but the company refused the request. Two months after the birth of her son, Woolf was too sick to work. She claimed that Mary Kay then sent her a letter threatening the loss of her job if her sales target was not met for the current month.

Mary Kay provided testimony that they had lowered the sales quota for the plaintiff's team when they learned of her illness, and that the threatening letter was a mistake. In addition, they claimed that Woolf was not justified in filing the wrongful termination suit since she was an independent consultant.

The court ruled that independent contractors have the same legal protections as employees when discrimination is practiced related to medical condition.

The above book excerpt is from:

You're Fired! Firing Computer Professionals

The IT manager Guide for Terminating "With Cause"

ISBN 0-9744486-4-8

Robert Papaj

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