update: how do I tell my coworkers that I have incurable cancer?

Remember the letter-writer last year wondering about how to tell her coworkers that she has incurable cancer? She updated us in December, and now here’s the latest (and heartbreaking and infuriating) update.

I’ve been out of work on a short-term disability leave since mid-May; I’ve been unable to work due to side effects from chemotherapy (new regime this year) and some pain from my spinal tumor. Unfortunately, my cancer is still progressing, and so far we’ve been unable to find an effective treatment regimen.

On Friday of last week, out of the blue, I got a call from my company telling me I’ve been “released”—fired—because my FMLA had run out. In all the discussions I’d had with HR about the arrangements with FMLA, disability,etc., I was never warned that this I could be dismissed while on short-term disability, so needless to say, I was astounded. No advance warning, no severance pay of any kind—just a few nice words, and I’m on my own.

I still have the private disability insurance ongoing, but I have to do all the administrative stuff on my own, now—supposedly, if I am no better by the end of November, I should be transitioned to long-term coverage, but this is not guaranteed, and my previous dealings with this insurance company were an awful experience…. Anyway, I’ve applied for Social Security disability coverage, but even if/when that comes through, it’s a pittance compared with the 60%-of-salary that I get from the private insurance policy. If that continues, I’ll be able to keep my house, etc., but on Social Security alone, I’m facing some huge changes—including COBRA or ACA coverage for my health care expenses, which annually total more than my salary has ever been.

I understand that what my company did was legal, but there are a few things they could have done to make this somewhat less devastating:

1) Inform me from the start that when my 12 weeks of FMLA leave were used up, I could be fired.

2) Fire me at the beginning of the month, rather than at the end. I’m going to do COBRA for the remainder of the year, but it’s very expensive, and a few more weeks on the original plan would have helped.

3) Keep me on the company books for the full 6 months of short-term disability (just 2 more months!), so that I am not fired until my long-term disability leave is settled.

4) Give me the typical severance pay for my industry (e.g., a month of salary per year worked). It would really help with the COBRA costs, etc.

I under that business is business, but I feel that this was a heartless way to handle my situation.

Meanwhile, I am doing my best to move on from this, and concentrate on trying to stabilize my cancer into something I can live with.

Me again. That’s horrible, and pretty much the textbook case of how not to handle a situation like this. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this.

Know that you’ve got lots of us pulling for you.

{ 245 comments… read them below }

  1. Brandy in TN*

    This is just awful. We are pulling for you. Karma will get the co. for the way it did this, hopefully.

  2. Marcela*

    Ugh. This is truly horrifying, and one of those moments where you want to get the names of the company and the person responsible of the decision, to shame them publicly because they seem human but they are not.

    1. Betsy*

      Honestly yeah, that’s the first thing I thought. I wish the OP was in a position to name names. I’m so sorry OP, I wish there was something else I could offer besides my sympathy.

  3. AMG*

    I understand the disability thing–my husband is too sick work or drive (and probably never will again) so we are doing the short-and-long term disability approval thing. They make it so hard that you almost always need a lawyer. We are holding our breath now as they look for any reason to refuse him–because being sick apparently isn’t enough justification.

    I am sorry you are going through this. Love and prayers to you.

    1. alter_ego*

      this is why I’ve said I’d rather pay for more people scamming our various welfare systems, in exchange for easing the regulations up for people who are really sick. It’s awful that you’re having to go through all that stress, in addition to all the stress you’re already under, what with your husband suffering from a long-term illness. And if you don’t have a support system (spouse/parents/adult children) I imagine it’s even that much more difficult.

      1. AMG*

        Hubs is only 48 and I’m 40 so no adult kids yet. We have young kids–8 and 10. My mom lives with us and has been a Godsend.

        You have to really hate people to run these insurance scams, er, programs. I see your point.

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          Besides which, in my experience the sort of people who are capable of “scamming” the welfare system will -always- find a loophole to abuse and land on their feet.

    2. OP*

      Thank you so much. It does seem that the system we have is set up with the premise of exclusion. Even with SS awarded, there is a 5-month waiting period for benefit payments, and a TWO-YEAR wait before you can be covered with Medicare (instead of costlier private insurance). In contrast to your very generous views, our existing system thinks it’s better to skip some of the deserving than to serve any undeserving!

      1. Jeanne*

        I’m really so very sorry. My company was more generous, keeping on for a year before I was let go.

        Now for the worse news. There’s a really really sucky law known as ERISA. Your disability company may at any time declare you not disabled. They do not have to tell you why or provide any documentation for their reasoning. You can appeal but you usually only get one appeal. You have to run to a lawyer immediately. The time periods for appeal are short and you cannot appeal yourself and then get a lawyer later. I had to get a lawyer. I got a very small settlement because I was going to “die soon anyway.” Also, if your disability company keeps paying for the months you are waiting for Social Security, when you get a lump sum from SS for the waiting period, you will be required by law to reimburse the disability company for the amount of your SS payment.

        I hope that you have comforting family and friends available to you.

  4. AnonaMoose*

    Oh OP, you were given the short end of the stick all the way through this experience and I am so sorry – for whatever it’s worth.

    And if the terrible company you referenced is Sedgwick, know that I am right there with you. Totally incompetent but incredibly sneaky company.

    Stay strong!!

    1. OP*

      I don’t want to identify them, as I still need their cooperation. And besides, I think that this may, sadly, be standard operating procedure.

      1. Julia*

        Yeah… My work contract outright states that they could let me go if I ever become too sick to work. I guess they’re just waiting to replace us all with robots.

  5. JS*

    Oh no. Like Alison said, we’re all pulling for you.

    (And not to make it a “me too” type post, but I was let go shortly after I revealed that I needed time off to deal with a tumor. These people are sadly out there and they’re awful.)

    1. OP*

      Oh gosh I am so sorry to hear this. I hope you’re doing OK. I have opined that this approach isn’t rare in business, but wish I were wrong.

    2. AW*

      The fact that this is common enough for someone to even be able to say “me too”, and within the first 10 posted comments!, makes my head want to explode.

  6. LawBee*

    Oh, that is TERRIBLE. I would be so tempted to write HR and all managers a letter saying exactly what you wrote here, because this was handled without any empathy or humanity at all.

    1. OP*

      This is something I may actually consider. I’ve always been a believer in “Speak truth to power”, but you can imagine why I’m feeling very, very cautious about doing anything to get their back up.

      1. anon for this*

        I think you should write to the company president and let him know what shenanigans are going on over here.

      2. bob*

        “I’m feeling very, very cautious about doing anything to get their back up.”

        Why? They’ve already shown without a doubt that they are heartless and worthless excuses for human beings so what else could they do to you if they “got their back up?” I’m mad enough to write to write them for you ! Just let me know when…

        Frankly, I’d name the company just to embarrass the hell out of them but that’s just me.

  7. Not So Sunny*

    My heart goes out to you, OP.

    I know you may not have the psychic energy for this, but have you considered getting a free 1-hour consult with an employment attorney? Perhaps there’s something they could do to get you severance…

    1. Observer*

      Highly unlikely. Unless there is something specific in an employment contract (highly untypical, as you know), it’s really almost impossible to enforce this type of thing.

      1. OP*

        I agree that there’s no legal resort–in the long weekend after I was fired, and before I could conduct further business, I researched this point pretty thoroughly.

        It’s illegal to discriminate in employment due to cancer, but that’s assuming that the employee can actually do their job. It’s perfectly legal to fire someone who is unable to do their job, regardless of the reason. In my case, I can’t do my job, so, ….

        1. CH*

          @OP I’d second the suggestion that you speak to an employment lawyer. Even if you don’t think you have a case you could take to court, this would get your side of the story on company-management’s radar. I have seen in my own work that many employers will pay just to settle and get the employment lawyer to stop calling them.

          Many others threaten wrongful termination suits for shady reasons — in your case I think maybe you’d just be asking for a little more fairness. Odds are, this was just someone following a process (and not malice) on your former employer’s part. Who knows, maybe someone high up at the employer sees this case, agrees that it’s short of the company’s values, and extends your healthcare. Not all of us corporate types are heartless!

          No one would blame you if you wanted to put all this behind you. But consider going for the consultation and letting the lawyer take a shot at it. The loudest “no” might be easier to take than a long, nagging “what if.”

          1. MillersSpring*


            You should escalate your complaint about this decision to whomever is the senior HR person, a VP or SVP at least. If you don’t get a reversal within say, a week. Go to an employment attorney and have them write a letter. The attorney will probably do it pro bono.

  8. Isabel*

    I am so sorry. That is inhumane. I hope you have emotional support from those around you. I wish I could lend you my dog for hugs. And I wish I could give that company a piece of my mind.

  9. Retail Lifer*

    This has me tearing up. They could not have been more cold. If I knew what conpany this was, I would do everything I could to spread the word about how awful they are.

    1. Jennifer*

      Much as I hate social media, it seems that spreading things like this on it gets results quick.

    2. anon for this*

      they’re B2B, basically. I doubt there’s anything a general public outrage could achieve.

  10. themmases*

    OP, I am so sorry this is happening to you. Health and disability benefits in the US are way too complex to access and stingy at a level that is truly inhumane. That there are people out there who would treat a colleague’s serious illness like “business” shows us why that is. If this happened to someone in my life, I would be calling the local paper.

    You may want to ask for a case work or social work referral at the facility where you are getting your cancer care. In our fragmented health and human services system, it’s very likely that there are resources out there you may not even know about– including help applying for disability and other benefits. Your local public health department may also be able to point you to low-cost sources for some of your routine care or help navigating the system.

    1. Mel*

      Second on this suggestion about the caseworker. My mother-in-law used to be an oncology social worker and they have resources ready to go to help people who need financial help with treatment. Sending lots and hugs and positive energy your way.

    2. UsedToDoSupport*

      Yes, second that. I have a friend who’s a retired forensic accountant. She volunteers in just such a program. They get retired folks and get them to just do what they’ve done in their job, so they are all experts. She deals with insurance and billing issues, and tax stuff. Her attorney friend gets after other problems. Another former soccer mom who’s kids are in college volunteers as a driver. She’s recruited me to help where I can — technology issues like routers, internet, etc. I start as soon as I retire! Great program, I can’t wait!

    3. Liane*

      Yes! They can do amazing things, fast.
      Our then-infant* son was very ill and having surgery the same week we were losing health insurance due to my husband being laid off (we couldn’t afford COBRA coverage). I recalled what a former roommate (a hospital social worker going back for a master’s) had told me about what she could do to help patients, so I encouraged husband to talk to the one at the children’s hospital. That wonderful woman called in that very same day the state agency Children’s Medical Services that helped children who had chronic illnesses and everything was set up within 24 hours. They even told us, “Call if you need ANY other help. If it’s not something we can help with, we WILL get whatever agency does.

      *now healthy college student

    4. Elizabeth West*

      This is a great suggestion. Healthcare and insurance has gotten so insanely convoluted it’s almost impossible to navigate it alone, especially when you’re sick.

      And *hugs* to you, OP. I’m sorry this happened. Your company is full of jerks.

    5. OP*

      Thank you, I appreciate so many helpful suggestions! As the haze clears and I have to deal with the realities as well as the feelings, it’s good to have these ideas.

    6. workingclass*

      The sad fact is that, anymore, everything IS business. In most area where you’re entitled to some form of compensation or benefit, there are as many inconveniences and tasks put in place to discourage you from pursuing what is owed to you. Insurance companies in particular are run on heartless, hyper money aware, principles.
      Intimidate and inconvenience, and a large number of people will turn away from what is rightfully theirs, so in the companies eyes they’ve earned that money.

  11. neverjaunty*

    I’m not so sure it was legal, LW, but I totally get you have enough on your plate. Hugs if you want them – and know you have a whole team of virtual people cheering for you.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      Unfortunately it is legal. It is not really ethical or moral, but it is legal. FMLA simply requires that the individual has un-paid job protection for up to 12 weeks. It sounds like the company was paying the OP (at 60%) which would have been short term disability and is not a required benefit (although I feel it should be).

      I am so very sorry OP. This breaks my heart and I wish more employers would do the right thing vs. what they can do.

      1. Retail HR Dude*

        It may be legal under FMLA, but from OP’s description they violated the ADA by skipping the interactive process to determine whether there were any reasonable accommodations (such as additional recovery time).

        It may not have changed the outcome if no accommodations would have been identified, but that doesn’t put the company back on legal ground. I would think that the EEOC or state labor board would find this to be a clear violation of the law.

        1. H*

          The OP states she cannot work. There is no need to accommodate not working. While there is precedent for additional leave as an accommodation, that is always in the context of a near term return to work, but OP has been up front that she cannot work and has not found a treatment to help her, so I think this is a dead end.

          1. neverjaunty*

            As none of us are employment lawyers looking at the full facts of OP’s situation, the state and jurisdiction in which she lives, her company’s written policies, etc., none of us are qualified to say “sorry, this is totally legal” (or, conversely, “you could sue them for lots of money”). IF and only if OP has the energy and support for this, I think it would be extremely wise to speak to a lawyer who specializes in employment matters.

            1. MaggiePi*

              Exactly. This may have been legal, it may not have been. The details matter a lot in a situation like this. It would certainly be a consideration to discuss it all with an attorney.

  12. Thunder*

    Wow – please send your story to your local news agency, facebook, twitter, etc so your company can be publicly shamed.

    1. Terra*

      Seconding this. I’m not normally a vengeful person but what they’ve done is cruel. Hopefully, with enough bad publicity they may suddenly discover some funds for proper severance pay at least. Also, it’s not your responsibility to save the world, but stories like yours make a big difference in getting the law changed like possibly extending FMLA coverage. I wish you all the best.

    2. Yes*

      My heart breaks for the OP.

      I really want to know who this company is so I can boycott it and avoid working for it ever. I agre ewith Thunder’s sentiment. Please share your story. To shame them and to hopefully prevent others from going through this same ordeal.

    3. Media*

      This. I work in PR with serious media contacts. Say the word, I will bring the wrath of the internet upon them.

        1. Cyclatrol*

          I lack any media or PR connections, but I can do Photoshop and assist with tech stuff. If I can help, please let me know.

          How long ago did all of this happen? I wonder if we could convince the company to reconsider its decision.

      1. AMG*

        Oh, please do this. Or at least tell us so we can have an AAM optional boycott. I will participate!!

          1. Anna*

            There are plenty of people here, though, that might spread the word about what they did and a company that does do business with them might take exception. And if enough companies they do business with do, then all the better for it.

    4. SaraHC*

      I agree. It must be possible to get your story out there without having it turned back around on you — talk to someone who knows more about such things (maybe other commenters?). I’d be most concerned when doing this about it blowing up in my face, but at the very least, if you don’t go public, please share the name of your company with people in your networks so they can, as was suggested, boycott, or just direct righteously indignant vibes at them. It may not have a huge effect on the company itself, but may give you some sense of agency.

    5. OP*

      Part of me really wants to do this, but the sad fact is, they can hurt me a lot more than they can help me, at this point. I have been through a lot of anger (and the great support by this site really helps!), and I need their cooperation. I’m definitely channeling “Let It Go” these days!!!

      And I really feel that this isn’t a unique policy; I suspect that it’s part of the business-is-business culture in general, so I feel there’s little point in shining the light on a single company.

      1. F.*

        Unfortunately, it is not a unique policy. When I was laid off from Very Large Dysfunctional Corporation in 2007, they also laid off a woman with brain cancer. This was a company that called itself the “Employer of Choice”!

        1. Koko*

          That was one of the complaints leveled at Amazon in the recent high-profile expose of their culture.

      2. steve g*

        But why does it have to be considered “shaming?”. They have a lousy business policy, saying it exists isn’t “shaming.”. Shaming implies outing someone’s personal business or targeting one person.

        I feel really bad for OP but don’t see the “it could hurt more than it helps” part or the “business is business” part. Saying what happened is just saying what happened, it’s not “outing” them, it is their policy and they apparently aren’t ashamed of it, or else they wouldn’t have it. And I’m not sure how telling the truth is going to hurt. They already cut OP off! It already did hurt OP! And if others can be helped or at least sympathize with the story….

        1. LBK*

          Agreed – “shaming” implies this is something they shouldn’t have to feel bad about and they absolutely should.

          That being said though, I don’t blame the OP for not wanting to pursue that route – it can be exhausting and easy to have turned around on you. There’s a reason being a whistleblower is usually viewed as negative.

      3. business as usual*

        Unfortunately, you are likely correct. I was let go from a small company in 2011 that prided itself on being a “family”. The details are too much to get into, but I was let go shortly after I disclosed a health condition that did not impact my ability to do 95% of my job. For the remaining 5%, it was not crucial that I actually perform the tasks.

        I had a lot of anger in those days, but like you I had to “let it go”. Importantly, I realized the anger was harming me and not affecting them at all. Once I worked through that, my own life improved.

      4. Lionness*

        OP, but that is the point – it isn’t a unique policy but I’m afraid many people don’t know this. I understand you are afraid to act against them and I won’t criticize that. But one day, when you are ready, if you want to call this out – the AAM hive mind is here for you.

        Also, if you feel so inclined to setup a GoFundMe…I’d be happy to help how I can.

  13. Ada Lovelave*

    OP it is terrible that you have to to deal with this. What your company did may be legal but it is unethical and unnecessarily cruel. As you mentioned there were plenty of instances where they could’ve taken a moment to look at the situation and make the compassionate choice. Their actions will surely come back to haunt them once people become aware of how they treat their employees, particularly in times of crisis. Please take the time for yourself and treatment. We are rooting for you.

    1. Mabel*

      Yes, we are rooting for you. And sending positive energy your way. I’m so sorry this is happening to you.

  14. JM*

    I am so sorry you are going through this. If you decide to apply for Social Security Disability, and you are approved, I think you automatically get Medicare, too. I would check with an attorney in your area who specializes in Social Security Disability claims. They usually file the claim for you at no cost, and then get paid with a portion of any back-benefits you are owed.

    1. Joanna*

      Yes, DO apply for SSDI, but Medicare does not kick in until 2 years and 5 months have passed. Doesn’t make sense to me, but that’s the way it is.

      1. Phyllis*

        There are some exceptions to that, including a 17-month lookback period based on the onset of your disability, as well as a couple of diagnoses that qualify for immediate eligibility (I think ALS is one). Not that this really helps the OP, but it’s good general info to know.

        1. OP*

          Many thanks. I have an appointment fairly soon at Social Security and will definitely press to determine whether I can get Medicare sooner. My condition is on the list of compassionate allowances but is not one of the 2 immediate-Medicare diseases (I think the 2nd is kidney failure).

          1. Andrea*

            OP, if you don’t have any luck getting a compassionate allowance for early Medicare (upon approval for Social Security disability benefits), please contact your congressional representative. Your congressman or congresswoman has staffers who work in constituent services, and they try to help constituents who are dealing with red tape from various federal agencies/programs. If it comes to that, I’m sure they could help you. (Though of course I hope it doesn’t come to that and that you get the allowance, just throwing that out there because I used to work for Social Security and we had situations where this came up a few times.)

            1. jelly bean*

              I am so sorry you are going through all this. Re: Social Security disability, I think they deny the bulk of initial claims but those that get appealed stand a very high likelyhood to get approved. We went through a lot of hoops to get my mom’s SS disability approved and it wasn’t until we got a lawyer specializing in social security that we got anywhere. The lawyer was paid out of the SS benefit and his fees were capped at a certain amount (which at the time seemed very reasonable). I really hope you don’t have this extra headache In store but wanted to chime in as it was very frustrating and depressing when my mom applied and was denied even though she couldn’t do most activities of daily living. We felt abandoned and all alone. Best of luck.

            2. Jean*

              +1 to the suggestions to contact
              -the constituent services staff of your congressional representative
              -the social worker/case manager affiliated with the organization that provides your medical care

              +1,000 to all expressions of outrage, sympathy, and moral support

              I admire the way you are working to Let it Go because holding on to anger is just bad for your own spirits. I’m sending you healing thoughts and warm wishes for continuing tranquility on your journey!

  15. Laurel Gray*

    I am fuming reading this update. OP, my thoughts, positive vibes, and prayers are with you as you go through this. In each of your letters you’ve come across as a sincere and positive person despite your current ordeal. I truly pray that you are able to stabilize your condition.

    I don’t want to work for companies like this. I don’t want to purchase or use whatever products are in the market from businesses like this. I am sick to my stomach that the OP’s company would make this decision at this time of the year and knowing OP’s circumstances. And not even severance? Cold and heartless management. I’m sure whatever monies they are saving is a drop in the bucket in the big picture. I would be super pissed if I was one of your coworkers knowing my colleague got the shaft like this. All the best and stay strong!!! Bear hugs.

    1. Observer*

      I mostly agree with you. But you may very well be wrong on the issue of how significant the amount of money is to the organization. The thing is that in many ways, that’s the least of the problem. Not that I’m knocking the finances, but the truth is that there are so many things they could have done to make things easier – some of which would have been low cost, and some of which would not have cost them anything. Failing to do those things is a failure of basic decency, and I simply can’t think of any way in which someone could justify that to themselves.

      1. OP*

        I agree in principle, but sadly, I think that if any dollars at all are involved, the issue becomes one of finance, not loyalty. A relatively small company OUGHT but maybe their financial burden is way higher–I dunno. I’ve been wishing that I could meet personally with the person who actually made the decision, and let them have it; but in a way, I’m very very tired and just want to move on.

        1. fposte*

          But even if a company is being coldly pragmatic, I think that’s blinkered. There’s an economics of morale, too. There’s a reason why even serious cheapskate employers don’t make their employees bring in their own toilet paper.

          I think one thing–maybe the main thing–that is so disappointing and enraging here is that you were a valued individual within the office who was then suddenly reduced to being merely a figure in a ledger. It’s wryly appropriate that it makes me think of how often that’s where medical practitioners go wrong–that it makes a huge difference when somebody says the hard thing but with a clear acknowledgment that this means something in human terms. It feels like your employer stopped thinking in those terms. And that’s not good business–that’s just a general failure.

          1. OP*

            Yes, that’s a really important point about why this is so distressing to me, beyond even the huge economic issues. I got great annual reviews, client kudos, etc. and made various personal sacrifices for the good of the business–and then was reduced to an unnecessary appendage to be snipped off at the company’s convenience. Not the kind of thing that breeds goodwill.

          2. Observer*


            The fact that it feels like no one thought it worth spending a few extra minutes to make this the least bad they could really us a huge failure.

  16. Caffeinated*

    OP I am so sorry that this is happening to you. You are handling this with 100 percent more tact and grace than the company (whose name I’d personally like to know so that I can boycott them!).

    No idea if this is the route you want to go down but I think some journalists may be interested in talking to you about your experience. Healthcare and big picture issues are usually popular as the election cycle nears.

    1. BRR*

      At your second paragraph, I know I want vengeance. The people who made this decision are horrible horrible people.

  17. Kelly L.*

    Ugh. :( That’s terrible. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this on top of your illness.

  18. Stranger than fiction*

    Have a big bouquet of flowers delivered to your old manager I with a card saying “you’re gonna need these more than me when this hits the media”

    This makes me so angry.

  19. HR Manager*

    This makes me very sad and was handled terribly. I am sorry you are having to go through this and figure everything out during such a difficult time.

    As an HR Manager I get that companies have leave of absence policies that must to be followed. If their policy is to terminate employees when FMLA is exhausted, that should have been communicated to you at the beginning with some updates along the way. To the OP’s point around timing, even if there is a policy that says once FMLA expires the employee is terminated, a few days to get the employee to the beginning of the next calendar month isn’t going to make a difference to the company and provides an entire month of extra coverage for the impacted employee.

    1. Cyberspace Dreamer*

      @HR Manager
      I don’t have all of the details but I alluded to this thread in today’s open post.

      Here is what I know. At oldjob, a former co-worker with a very important job got in to an accident. He was out for several months. According to the story, one of the HR reps kept telling people that his condition was worse than it was, even possible involving an amputation. As I shared in that post, the decision was to terminate him. A non-management employee cleaned out his desk and brought his belongings to the hospital and asked for his cell phone. Again this is how he found out he was terminated. He was told that his job could not be held for him, but when he got better, they would re-hire him. At the same time another employee went on personal leave and her job was held for months

      With that being said, when he healed up he tried to get his job back but the company failed to get back with him in a timely fashion. He eventually got a job elsewhere making twice what this company was paying him.

      I still cannot see that as being completely legal.

  20. fposte*

    OP, I’m so sorry. You have laid out some really clear and reasonable things your employer could have done without any problem.

    Have you confirmed that your disability benefits cease with your employment? That’s not always the case. I’m betting that you’ve checked and they do, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to mention.

    1. OP*

      The disability benefits do NOT cease–I am still on the policy, but I now have to interact directly with the insurance company, and that’s what was so disastrous the previous time I had short-term disability (at the end of my first round of chemo, 8 years ago). I just have to hope that this time they’ll do the right thing.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, sorry, you did say that, and I totally misread. I’m glad you have the policy, at least, and I hope insurance does what it’s supposed to do.

  21. KT*

    While I would love to see this company shamed…is there anything we can do for the OP? A GoFundMe or something to lessen the burden even a little?

      1. That One Lady*

        Oh good, I was going to ask the same thing. And if not a GoFundMe, maybe seeing if she would be willing to let you privately share her address so we can send gift cards (like to Amazon or grocery/gas) to ease some of the everyday expenses?

      2. Formica Dinette*

        Thank you for doing that! I would like to offer OP a bit of money, support, time, or anything else I can reasonably do to help. However, I can see why OP might decline. It can be a real pain to have people you know all up in your business, let alone a bunch of random people from the internet.

      3. Kyrielle*

        Thank you! Fingers crossed, I would like to help if OP is comfortable with it.

        And if not, I hope OP is at least getting some comfort from the sheer amount of outrage (at the company) and concern and caring here.

        That was really a horrible way for the company to handle that. :(

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I emailed with the OP about this, and she said she’ll be fine financially and asks that people instead channel their very kind generosity to people who are needier! Thanks, y’all, for asking about it though — you are nice people.

        1. Andrea*

          That’s incredible—with all she is dealing with, she is still thinking of those even needier. I’m tearing up right now. OP, you’re good people. I would personally love to send you cards and care packages, if possible.

        2. Isabel*

          Well, this was the tears-tipping point for me. So relieved to know that at least OP is financially stable despite this, and so touched by OP’s generous ability to think of others at a time like this.

          Add me to the list of those who would really like to know if there is anything we can do for you. Just stop by and drop a comment here if you could use a few hours of help researching resources of any kind, writing a letter for any reason, support for a cause of choice, or … well, anything. There are so many knowledgeable, skilled people here with connections of all kinds.

          Or just re-read the worst intern and interview stories when you need cheering up.

          1. Isabel*

            I’ve been meaning to organize myself to donate some perks of work I do (beauty products, clothing samples) to an organization that gives woman transitioning from shelters into the workforce help with resumes and professional looks, etc. I will do that right now, in the spirit of your suggestion. Thank you, OP.

        3. Kyrielle*

          OP, I’m so glad you’re going to be fine financially, and I agree with the other commenters – you are awesome.

        4. KT*

          Is there anything else we could do? An AAM chain letter of support? I want to make sure the Op knows there are people who care out there!

          1. OP*

            All these wonderful, informative, helpful, commiserating replies are a very great gift to me. I thank all of you with all my heart!

        5. LBK*

          Okay, I was totally holding it together until this update but now I’m a little teary. Sending as many positive vibes as I can muster – OP, your perseverance and perspective are inspiring.

        6. BeenThere*

          Lot of internet hugs for you OP and for everyone hwo has shared similar stories!

          Are there charities that the OP respects that we could direct our intentions towards?

          This post has really made me aware of how wuickly things could change and how little protections there is for workers with long term illnesses amd similar

        7. Prismatic Professional*

          *sniff* OP you are quite the amazing person. Sending jedi hugs and positive energy your way! Please let us know if anything comes up we can help with!

        8. Formica Dinette*

          If OP is reading this: You are an incredible person! I will do that and keep you in my thoughts while I’m doing it. :)

    1. Kate Nepveu*

      (FYI, GoFundMe is pretty expensive; YouCaring is apparently a better option, as it simply requires the credit card processing fee of 2.9% plus $.30 per transaction.)

    2. M.*

      Same. I may be flat out broke, but I’m willing to scrounge together some money or may have a gift card or two floating around that I will not use that I can give to help OP out.

  22. Tax Nerd*

    Any chance the OP would be eligible for unemployment compensation? And I agree–while what was done to you, OP, may be legal, the legality does NOT make it right. I am too angry at that company right now to say anything more.

  23. Dr. Doll*

    I have no words for the rage I feel not only at this company but for our entire system in the USA which could not have been better designed to chew human beings up and spit them out like used-up gum if someone had specifically sat down to do it.

    Yes, what’s that company?

    1. Spooky*

      Completely agree. So many other advanced countries have figured this out – why do we continue to punish people who get sick so mercilessly? This kind of incredible stress just makes it worse, and it’s typically a “debt sentence” for the family.

      OP, please, please name and shame. You don’t owe these people anything.

      1. Ruffingit*

        This is one reason why I am glad I married someone from Europe. If need be, we can both go back to his home country for medical care.

        1. Dr. Doll*

          They are doing business in the USA, therefore able to take advantage of our system, which is what I’m truly angry about.

          And since they ARE taking advantage of the system, instead of doing better when they could have, they are fully as culpable as Apple when it allows misbehavior in its Chinese iPad factories!

          1. anon for this*

            Totally agree, just want to caution against “This wouldn’t happen in XXX place!” because this company’s owners certainly have national health insurance. I guess the most generous interpretation might be that they have no idea what a horrible thing they have just done…………but I doubt it.

      2. RVA Cat*

        Crap like is this is also the reason that “Breaking Bad” could only be set in America…..

  24. Adam*

    One more voice to add to the chorus of people who empathize with you and the horrible way you’ve been treated. Sending you many prayers/well wishes that you get what you need and can live with peace.

  25. Not So NewReader*

    OP, my heart and prayers go out to you. This is what they did to my husband, also. At the end of three months he was without a job. We were never told. His boss knew that it was not right and he simply told my husband that he would pull all the strings in the world to find him some work, once my husband got better.

    Our systems are very harsh, OP. My husband’s oncologist had a sign on his entrance door that said, “We do not accept credit cards.” ON the entrance door. Yeah, because your patients are bankrupt, that is why. There are so many of these types of things that you are seeing, I know. The unfairness is staggering. What you have written here is the tip of the iceberg.


    I have also learned that there are many, many beautiful people out there. People who are willing to give their shirts off their backs if need be. May all those beautiful people find YOU, OP. Believe that you will always have what you need.
    Believe because:
    a) it hurts too much when we no longer believe we will have what we need.
    b) by believing it reminds us to keep watchful for opportunities. Opportunities will skate right past us if we do not observe them in the moment. Take the opportunities you see, no matter how small the opportunity is.

    My thoughts are with you and yours.

  26. Retail HR Dude*

    Actually, what your employer did is NOT legal. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required your company to at least engage in the interactive process to determine whether any reasonable accommodations existed that would enable you to perform your job functions. Additional recovery time beyond FMLA is something that would have at least needed to have been discussed.

    Ultimately it may not have been reasonable to provide further recovery time, but they are not allowed to jump to that conclusion and skip the interactive process.

    1. Mel in HR*

      This! Every HR class I have attended on FMLA has stressed that just because FMLA is up does not mean you can just fire them if they can’t come back yet. ADA can definitely apply depending on the circumstances

      1. Retail HR Dude*

        Yep. It’s kind of scary how many people in this thread with “HR” in their username are somehow are missing this fact. I also thought it was pretty basic stuff.

    2. GloriaB*

      I posted the same thing in reply to another comment. OP, not sure where you are located but the 6th circuit has been really pushing back on employers.

    3. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      Yeah, from what’s been written here I very much agree. OP informed her employer that she is a person with a disability, she has expressed an interest in returning to work, and it is incumbent upon the employer to engage in the interactive process. That in and of itself is an ADA violation, regardless of whether that process would have ended in OP continuing to be employed or not.

      I’d consult an employment attorney (anyone reputable will talk to you for free) and see if you can shake them down for continuing health coverage or a severance at the very least.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        Maybe I missed it somewhere, but when did the OP express an interest in returning to work? We do not know from what the OP has posted (again, unless I missed it) that the company did not try to see if there was type of accommodation that would enable her to return to work. She may have stated that she can not return to work and did not participate in the interactive process.

  27. HRish Dude*

    It’s sadly legal, but that doesn’t make it any better when employees get treated like a number instead of a human being.

    The least they could have done was let you know at the start that they would not be putting you on general medical leave.

  28. liz*

    Your company SUCKS. I am incredibly sorry to hear about this and am sending lots of good thoughts to you. I hope that something works out for you and wish I could do more!

  29. frequentflyer*

    I’m so sorry to hear this OP. I can’t imagine how shocked and betrayed you must have felt. I hope everything gets sorted out so that you can concentrate on getting better and taking care of yourself. Our prayers and encouragement are with you and I’m sure your strength and courage will bring you through this!

  30. T*

    During the recession, I worked for a company that was self-insured so they were particularly aware of people with chronic illnesses. When we had lay-offs, those positions all magically made it onto the list. They literally counted the days until someone’s FMLA leave ran out so they could fire them.

        1. Anon the Great and Powerful*

          They have written about non-trendy companies before, so it could be worth a try.

  31. Dangbattleship*

    Depending on OP’s exact situation and what state she’s in, Medicaid may also be an option – at least worth checking into. What a horrible situation. Hope to hear about a GoFundMe or other fundraising.

  32. Me*

    And this is exactly why we need a national healthcare system. And/or full unionization. The same thing happened to my grandfather, before I was born. This kind of bullshit shouldn’t happen in an ‘advanced’ nation.

    1. the_scientist*

      It boggles my mind that in a developed country and an economic powerhouse like the USA that in the 21st century, when we all have tiny computers in our pockets, people still lose their houses over medical costs. There is no reason for it to be this way.

      1. LabTech*

        Especially considering that insurance is intended to prevent this very thing from happening.

        I’m so sorry, OP. I hope you manage to get the care that you need.

        1. Artemesia*

          tying medical insurance to employment makes zero sense — get sick, can’t work, lose medical insurance. How does that make any sense?

    2. Elizabeth West*

      It’s not perfect–as Carrie in Scotland said upthread, the UK is starting to look like this too. The benefits rules are becoming more draconian by the day, it seems.

      I asked an English friend how they ended up with our Republicans. He said he didn’t know who voted for them; nobody he knew would admit it!

  33. AnonEMoose*

    I’m so sorry, OP. Please know that, as others have said, you have many people here pulling for you. And please, if you’re willing, set up that GoFundMe (or have a friend do it for you)!

  34. Anna*

    I kind of would like to know if this a company large enough that I would do business with them so I can avoid it. They should be ashamed and they deserve to be called out. Don’t buy in to the business is business argument, OP. There are tons of employers out there that wouldn’t even think of doing this without at least discussing other options with you first.

    I am so sorry. Life certainly doesn’t have to be fair, but it certainly shouldn’t go out of its way to kick you when you’re down.

  35. ZSD*

    I’m so sorry, OP. You might try reaching out to A Better Balance to see if they have any way to help.

  36. Ruffingit*

    Alison, can you suggest to the OP that she start a Go Fund Me? I would totally contribute to that as I’m sure many others would. This is sad and fucked up.

  37. Cancer Really Sucks*

    I’m so sorry, OP. Shame on that company.

    Regarding the disability, ask your doctor to write a note to speed up the process. We did this for my dad and he was approved much sooner.

  38. Lane*

    My best friend had this happen to her, the only difference is she was out due to an injury that was FROM work.

      1. Lane*

        Apparently legal, but from a “Christian” non profit, who stresses kindness and compassion in their motto/statement. And yes to Workers comp, but it has been almost a year, and its a condition that the longer she waits, the less likely it is to heal. Ridiculous. OP, I hope that your situation improves, and good thoughts to you.

  39. Mel in HR*

    OP may have rights under ADA to counter this action. FMLA isn’t the end all be all and companies need to show that they were accommodating to someone with disabilities. Just a thought.
    This is such a sad update and I am hoping that things get easier for OP

    1. GloriaB*

      Hi OP,

      Long time reader, but first time commenter. I want to second what Mel said here. I used to manage LOA/Disability in my previous job and dealt with this often.

      Under ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), additional leave may be considered a reasonable accommodation. Employers should no longer have a blanket policy that terminates someone when FMLA exhausts. They should be engaging in an ‘interactive process’ as each case needs to be evaluated separately.

      I say ‘should’ as courts have started to rule more favorably for employees, especially in some circuits, and the onus is on the employer to show the interactive process took place.

      It doesn’t sound like this happened in your case. Based on my own experience (note I am not a lawyer), it sounds like if the interactive process took place, the outcome would remain the same (based on details provided), however, it may be considered a violation. Just something to think about.

      Again, OP sorry you are dealing with this :-/

  40. Carrie in Scotland*

    This is absolutely disgusting, vile and underhanded of the company and I am sure karma will get them. The wrath of AAM-ers will see to that.

    I wish you all the best, OP and I hope you can enjoy your life as much as you can/are able to.

  41. Lisa*

    I’m confused. Isn’t there a thing against retaliation for taking FMLA? or is the law just there to give you a buffer until the company can fire you after FMLA is up?

    1. fposte*

      Basically, yes to the second part. Absent FMLA, they probably would have “released” her considerably earlier. They’re not retaliating against her for taking FMLA; they’ve just run out of the leave they’re legally required to give her.

      I think the ADA point is a reasonable one, but I don’t think it’s likely that keeping somebody on payroll if they can’t work and have no date for when they can would be considered a reasonable accommodation. This is really not uncommon, either; really nice companies may do it more nicely and may follow the OP’s heartbreakingly reasonable suggestions, but there aren’t many places that can keep paying somebody for an extended time when they’re not working.

      This is one of the big freaking holes in America’s belief that private enterprise and bootstrapping is all we need to be okay; as Ruffingit notes about the health insurance situation, it’s a problem that it’s our employers who are considered the ones responsible for meeting such basic human needs and that our only other recourse is to bootstrap our way out of incurable disease.

      1. Heather*

        I don’t remember who said it, but the “Telling someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps does no good when they have no boots” quote comes to mind.

        OP, I wish you all the best and I’m so sorry you’re going through any of this, let alone all of it.

  42. JMegan*

    There’s a special place in hell for people like that. I’m so sorry, OP. You didn’t deserve this, and I agree with the others that you are handling it all with a tremendous amount of grace and dignity. (At least on the outside – you may well be raging on the inside. I know I would!)

    Best of luck to you.

  43. Drewby*

    It infuriates me to be reading this outcome; “business is business” or not, it speaks volumes as to how the employer views their employees , especially those going through such horrible life episodes.

    My father passed away three months ago after losing his battle to pancreatic cancer. My mother is a nurse at one of the best hospitals in the country which also provided exceptional care for my father as well as great compassion to my mother when she had to unexpectedly go on leave.

    I also recently started a new job shortly before his diagnosis. My new employer recognized my wanting to be in a position to prove myself in a new work environment while trying to balance out the trouble my family. They immediately told me that there’s plenty of people on my team who can pick up any of my slack and consistently boasted the “family first” rule. Despite my father’s outcome, I was so relieved yet so proud to work for a company who recognizes these things.

    I’m keeping the OP in my thoughts. While I commend her for keeping her chin up during her ordeal, this is in no way how to be treated. I can’t imagine how those in the decision-making process can sleep at night after handing down their ruling.

  44. AmericanBackFromEngland*

    Oh, my heart just sank when I read this update. OP, I am so, so sorry. I wish I could give you a big hug. A little compassion goes a long way and it wouldn’t have killed them to keep you informed so you could (somewhat) plan for this, knowing in advance it might happen. My first instinct is to bring over a meal immediately. I’m a long-time Army wife, so it’s just what I do. Next, I’d do your grocery shopping, run errands, etc. I’m currently unemployed right now (we just moved again) so I’m free to assist. Knowing these things aren’t really possible, I would like to know if I can help in other ways. GoFundMe perhaps? I’m really hoping Allison will be able to convince the OP to let us help. Every little bit helps. Please know I’m thinking of you.

  45. K.*

    I am Going Through Some Things at the moment so am perhaps overly sensitive, but I teared up when I read this update. It just shouldn’t be this hard. I am pulling for you, OP.

  46. Kvaren*

    All I can offer, OP, are hugs to you and anger at the chumps who let you down.

    To think of how downright dedicated of an employee you’ve been! This is infuriating to me, a total internet stranger. So how was your employer comfortable with it?!

    Truly an injustice.

  47. Not me*

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this, OP. If there’s anything we could do to help, I hope you’re in touch with Alison about that.

  48. NickelandDime*

    I’m hopping mad. They did my mother like this. She sued and won. When she spoke to the attorney and they did their inquiries…basically they were waiting for her to die, and when she didn’t, they fired her. Horrid. Just horrid.

  49. anon for this*

    Here to vouch for how amazing OP is. Brilliant at their job, easy to get along with, a shining star in any organization as well as a total sweetheart. I am crying too. Our erstwhile company makes terrible decisions.

  50. SanguineAspect*

    This is the one time piling on is good at AAM — you’d better believe we’re all piling on love, support, and positivity right now. And if there’s anything we can do to help, know that we’re here ready to leap if you say the word.

  51. CM*

    I think it’s worth at least talking to a lawyer, even if you think your company’s actions are legal. Googling “can you be fired after fmla runs out” brings up some resources that look pretty reputable (Nolo, law firms). They say that, while in general you can be fired after FMLA leave is over if you can no longer do your job, you should consult a lawyer because as others have pointed out above, the ADA may protect you. In your position, I would definitely do at least a free consult.

    1. Winter is Coming*

      I’m with CM on this, it’s at least worth looking into. Perhaps you could get some sort of settlement/severance that would help with some of the other unexpected expenses you are now experiencing.

      This is just awful, and I teared up too. It’s just so unfair!

  52. Persephone Mulberry*

    Where the eff is the dislike button when you really, really need it.

    OP, I am so sorry to hear this. Your company sucks. I don’t have any advice in this arena, but some folks above have posted some good suggestions. We will all be thinking of and pulling for you.

  53. Brooke*

    How can I/we help? I’m serious. This truly, truly sucks. I second the suggestion of possibly a GoFundMe.

  54. MHFolly*

    First of all, I think the OP is in a horrible spot and their company’s unwillingness to help accommodate or ease the transition to unemployment seems really crass. It seems like a little bit of generosity on their part could have a profound impact on their life and situation.

    But I’m a little confused. I thought FMLA was supposed to be the thing that keeps you from losing your job when you’re sick, and that 12 weeks was the standard? I would assume I would be jobless as soon as that was up since I wasn’t able to do the work, but the responses here makes it seem like this is an egregious mishandling of the situation and not very common.

    I am a little embarrassed because when I read this, I didn’t see anything at all surprising. Is it that there’s an expectation that FMLA is there for financial support and not to help secure your job for short-term illnesses? Or that employers are supposed to tell you what to expect once a government law is tied to your leave?

    1. Elizabeth*

      I think the expectation is that the employer will share the details of what to expect with the employee, that there will be advance notification of employment termination, and that the employer would work with the employee to make sure everyone was on the same page and there were no surprises, also that the employer would work with the employee to ensure continuity of insurance.

    2. fposte*

      I think you’re asking a good question. This is an understandably emotional situation, so it can be hard to unpick the emotion from the procedures. I think it’s worth noting that the OP herself isn’t saying she should never have lost her job–she’s just noting some fairly simple things that could have meant it was handled better.

      I think you’re wise to go with the presumption of post-FMLA firing, but I also think that a lot of people have no idea how FMLA works or what it covers, that any decent HR person or manager should grasp that somebody not well enough to work is not at their top processing power, and that being absolutely clear about what the employer can and can’t do is a minimal courtesy in this situation. I can understand that “We can’t keep your job for you after twelve weeks from today” is an unpleasant thing to say to a sick employee, but it beats hell out of “Surprise! No more paychecks after today.”

      And, as you can tell from the fact that a colleague has written in as well, when an employer is seen to handle something like this badly it hurts the other employees too. It wouldn’t cost them anything to be clear up front, and it would cost them an overall minimal amount to have offered her severance or to have kept her on to the beginning of the next month for COBRA; they’d get back a lot of goodwill from their employees by being seen to have opted for handling things in a way that didn’t seem to be trying to get away with the least the law required.

      1. Kvaren*

        Are you saying that the OP’s colleague has participated in this thread? Can you point me in the right direction?

            1. anon for this*

              Yep. I left the company because of some shockingly bad management decisions that I have described here on this site previously. The OP was very kind to me during this time and we also worked closely together on a project, which was an amazing experience for me.

      2. anon for this*

        This is an industry where the placement bonus for an experienced employee doing what I do (which is related to but not exactly what the OP does) is very very high. In other words, people with the knowledge and talent that OP has are in demand. So this to me is a case of “use ’em up and throw ’em out.”

        It’s also a relatively small industry where people might know each other as they move from company to company. I have reached out to my network, such as it is, and put out the alert that this company has done this; hopefully it will make hiring more difficult for them going forward. (Like I said, companies are gagging for people to do this work.) I am not an influencer in any large sense so this might just be a tiny action on my part but the word will definitely spread.

    3. AW*

      I would not have expected that I could be fired for using short or long term disability which, if I understand correctly, is separate from FMLA. Why have that benefit at all if you’re going to be fired for trying to use it? I also wouldn’t have expected there to be a two month gap between short term and long term disability eligibility.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think she was fired for using it, though. She was fired because she couldn’t return to work after she ran out of FMLA, and she would have been fired for that whether she was taking disability or not.

        It might be that thinking of short-term disability as leave; it’s actually a kind of insurance policy that pays you when you’re on leave. So neither short-term nor long-term disability protect your job; they just get you paid. And FMLA doesn’t get you paid; it just protects your job, until it can’t any more.

  55. ginger ale for all*

    I am sorry to hear the update. The business of healthcare definitely needs more reforms and adjustments.

  56. JessaB*

    I would talk to a local social security attorney. There may be some expedited things you can do because of your diagnosis.

  57. SSDI*

    I’m so sorry. If you haven’t already, please talk to your oncologist and have them connect you to a social worker. You should (depending on your type of cancer) qualify for compassionate allowance under SSDI, which may make things a bit easier. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local Medicaid office; they may be able to help you given your change in employment.

  58. politiktity*

    Please consider speaking to a journalist on this. Not with an eye for vengeance or getting the company to change their position, but to bring attention to a huge gaps in employer based insurance when it comes to end of life issues (both health AND disability insurance). You have such grace in you, I think you would be a very compelling and human face to a gross policy gap.

    And if there’s justice in the world, the visibility will open up additional support. But it is a wonderful gift you could give the world, and perhaps it’s a way for you to move forward without giving in to anger.

    1. Kelly*

      I can understand why the OP doesn’t want to make it fully public. Going through cancer treatment is draining, and it’s worse if it’s not the first time. My mother had breast cancer last year and she tried her hardest to not show the fatigue and overall tiredness she felt. Going to the media and naming names could be more draining for the OP.

      The media is very receptive to personal narratives where a person with an illness or disability has been taken advantage of as either an employee or customer of a business. Some of the stories do strain credibility, and those who go to the media with overblown claims do create more skepticism towards those who are more legitimate victims.

      1. politiktity*

        Having family members go through cancer treatment, I fully understand that this might feel something the OP feels too drained to pursue.

        My point is that she could approach media in a way to avoid it being cancer patient victimized by a cruel employer. Those stories are confrontational and usually reported on in an inflammatory way to maximize ratings and guarantee the OP will receive some flak. Instead she could find a health policy journalist who might be happy to profile an example of gaps in our system. Such a reporter would be more interested in the regulations that led to this situation. It wouldn’t have to mention the employer or even the OP by name at all, which would minimize the blowback she’d have in her relationship with them.

  59. BSharp*

    I’m so sorry to hear about this. I hope you’re surrounded by a good community of friends and family right now.

  60. TheExchequer*

    A dear friend of mine is going through something similar, so I’m trying not to tear up at work.

    Is there anything we can do for you, OP? Besides inventing a way to slap stupid people through the internet, I mean.

  61. Nethwen*

    Reading this made my stomach turn. That’s a horrible way to treat another.

    Confirms for me that I’m making the right moral choice by allowing a chronically ill part time employee keep her job and take a day off whenever she feels sick.

  62. lp*

    If you still have life insurance through your employer or otherwise, call the company and ask if they have an accelerated benefit for terminal patients. They may also be able to give you a premium waiver, just be sure to ask soon. You may have as little as 30 days from termination of benefits to take advantage.

  63. M from NY*

    I am so sorry you are dealing with this.

    As others have mentioned I believe there are other avenues available to you. Please see a lawyer to review your case. At the very least severence and assistance with dealing with insurance company is not too much to request. Your job may be right technically but you’re well within your right to push back if others have gotten severance in the past.

    Also as another poster stated above, please contact your local Congressman & Senator who can assist with your case and possibly expedite any paperwork you have to deal with. It’s hard and tiring to keep track and do all of this writing. If you need assistance please do not hesitate to ask.

    Lastly once all is done please share your experience. The mess of the US health care system is always discounted with stories of the abusers. There is not enough focus on real people who work and when they need coverage the most are dismissed (or end up on road to bancruptcy) due to the intertwining of insurance and employment. A national system of health care is long overdue.

  64. Rahera*

    I’m so sorry to read this update, OP. That’s truly horrible. Sending you very best wishes.

  65. Verde*

    This absolutely breaks my heart. We had a person in a similar situation and did our best to help her through it, not make it worse. And having to deal with the added stress of navigating all the bureaucracy of insurance and Social Security, etc. when you’re already so ill is not how you want to be spending your time or energy.

    I wish you the very, very best. And, if you still have access to an EAP, maybe give them a call and see if there are any patient advocacy groups in your area. They can help with some of the paper pushing and phone calls, etc. and maybe take a little off your plate. Take care.

  66. Searching*

    What a heart-breaking situation to be in. I agree OP’s company could have handled several aspects much better, especially in terms of communicating their policies. It did make me curious how my own employer would have handled this. I found out (clearly posted on the internal company website) that for us, if FMLA runs out but the employee is still on STD or LTD, the employee is notified that their position will be filled (business need), but their employment is NOT terminated while they are out on covered disability leave. If/when they get to a point that they can return to work, their situation will be evaluated to see if a suitable position can be found. If not, employment is terminated at that time. I do not believe, however, that severance payments are provided in that case.

    OP, my thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time. I admire the grace with which you are handling your situation. There have been some thoughtful suggestions up-thread by others more knowledgeable, I hope some of them will have good results.

  67. Mimmy*

    Very sorry this is happening :( I don’t understand the ins and outs of this at all, but I do agree that your employer could’ve handled this in a much kinder fashion.

    Good luck.

  68. Kat A.*

    I don’t believe in karma. I believe you have to do something or they will get away with this.

    Post it all to Glassdoor.com. Do it before you no longer have the strength.

  69. NashvilleGrrrl*

    That’s not how you treat people. And ALL your co-workers are watching and saw what they just did to you. If they have half a brain, they’ll start looking for another job NOW.

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. :(

    1. OP*

      Amazingly, my 5th column (still at the company) informs me that there has been no announcement about my “departure”–usually there is at least a brief email saying that as of yesterday, so-and-so is no longer with the company. There haven’t even been any informal, within-department notices. I’ve simply disappeared.

      1. Prismatic Professional*

        Wow. Not. Cool. Given the fantastic work you did for them, not even acknowledging your departure makes it seem like the KNOW it is shady (morally if not legally) and that their other employees would NOT be happy if they found out.

        :-/ I’m very sorry they are doing this. You are amazing and do not deserve this at all.

  70. Wehaf*

    OP I am so sorry, and I am keeping you in my thoughts. I am ashamed that we live in a country that allows these things to happen, a country that has failed you. I am appalled that your years of exemplary service mean nothing to your company now that you are sick. I am wishing the best for you.

  71. Ro*

    OP – Hire a lawyer! They might be able to get you a better severance package even if the company’s actions were technically legal. Will keep you in my thoughts!

  72. Jenna*

    I am so sorry for all that you are going through.
    Getting SSN disability pretty much requires a couple years and a lawyer. I know because I am doing that too(cancer and treatment, here as well, though my cancer was removable and not likely to return). If I didn’t have a couple of roommates I would be in far worse financial straits, and I am still waiting on the SSN process. If the Social Security Disability ever comes though I will have to pay the disability insurance company back, but, I will have to worry about that then.
    My company finally let me go, as well, though mine was more generous with time. I don’t know what state you are in, and this will likely be different for you, because I live in California and so many things are different here by law, but, under the ACA I was able to get health coverage for about half of what COBRA was quoted to be for me. This is with subsidies based on my income, but, for me, being able to get PPO coverage for half of what COBRA would have been is huge. If I had been willing to go HMO I could have found cheaper coverage, but, with CT scans and doctor visits ongoing, I wanted to continue with the same doctors if I could, and I can.
    So, if you are in California, try the Covered California site and see what you can get. There’s a website, but, also a phone number(I called) and clinics you can go to to talk to people and sign up.
    The Affordable Care Act might be national, but, the state by state implementation makes it hard to give further advice.
    I wish you all the best.

    1. OP*

      Unfortunately, I live in (and worked for) Southern, very “pro-business” states with comparatively low priorities regarding worker protection. I did live in California for a good number of years, and the state-mandated benefits were definitely the best I have encountered–can only hope that the old saw “California leads the nation” will eventually prove true on this count!

  73. Roberta*

    I think there’s lots of comments recommending that the OP get a lawyer, but I just want to second (30th?) that. I do LTD and STD defense work (defending the insurance company (I know, I know)) so I see how this stuff works from the insurer’s side. It’s not a guarantee that your LTD claim will be denied, and some insurance companies are better than others about approving legitimate claims, but having an attorney to handle the administrative tasks of dealing with the insurance company is alone worth their fee. Having to wade through jargon and pages of documents especially when you’re dealing with illness can be brutal and an attorney can really support you there.

    I’ve often said that handling the administrative crap required to maintain disability benefits (be they through private insurance, state benefits, or SSDB) is a part time job in and of itself.

    Best of luck to the OP and I’m sorry that you’re dealing with bureaucratic nonsense instead of being able to focus on your health.

  74. Just Passing Through*

    OP, I was reading this blog to try to help me with some of my own work issues and then I saw your post. I am so sorry that this happened and I hate that certain places think they can drop you like you were nothing.

    But the reason I wanted to stop and post is because I know of a very, very far off shot looking for patients like yourself.

    The hospitals in my area are a not for profit chain that has introduced a new cancer research at Dixie Regional Medical Center with something called cancer genomic therapy.

    Their website has more information but I bring this up because as a not for profit this hospital chain often acquires medications for patients at a discounted rate or even for free. The center is also only accepting terminal patients since their techniques are still being researched.

    It’s a long shot but if you’re up to it it might be worth looking in to. And even though you said you didn’t want a gofundme earlier, if you needed help getting to a doctor that would collaborate or needed to get out to Southern Utah in general, I’m sure the people here would help fund tickets and needed expenses.

    The site is here. Basically they test samples from tumors for known abberations from normal cells that can be targeted. This kills the mutated cancer cells but spares the healthy cells.

    Since it’s such a new program with only a few centers across the country, I try to get information out there in case someone can at least try to get a better quality of life for a while.


    Take care of yourself either way. You’ve fought longer and harder and on more fronts than most.

  75. likitmtrs*

    I don’t know if OP is still checking comments but if you do – something like this happened to me.

    A large company fired me during my disability leave. I don’t have cancer I have another disease, but I was continuously trying to return to work with accommodation and kept failing and they eventually “laid me off” and that was it. It was a sad, sad turn of events.

    I did not get my long term disability, I was denied, even though I qualified for SSDI, which I have heard is both rare and bizarre.

    In addition to solidarity, I want to recommend a company to you – Allsup. They help people file for disability. They do charge a fee to do it, but it is more than worth it. Even with a good claim, depending on your state (and how weird is it that it depends on the state when it’s a federal benefit?) it can take more than a year and even two to get SSDI benefits, then you have to be on them a year before Medicare kicks in and you qualify for the good Medicare Advantage plans.

    Allsup got me disability on the first try in about 3 months. It is worth the money. I don’t work for them, to be clear, so I’m not getting anything for recommending them. I just feel for your situation and it reminds me of what happened to me and I hope this might help you. You don’t want to be without benefits if you can avoid it.

    Good luck to you, OP. I hope you see this.

  76. Volunteer Enforcer*

    Who’d have thought they’d be so heartless after how supportive they were in the first update. OP you can do this, go for it.

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