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Entries in Medical Leave (2)

Tuesday
Sep132011

Philadelphia Woman Says She Was Fired for Taking Leave to Donate Kidney

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Claudia Rendon, 41, of Philadelphia, said her employer, Aviation Institute of Maintenance, fired her after she took time off to donate a kidney to her son. Rendon said the school was also trying to collect up to $2,000 from her son, a student at the school, related to his sick leave.

Rendon, who worked for a year and a half in the school's admissions office, said she notified the school that she planned to take leave on July 19 to undergo kidney transplant surgery on July 21 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on behalf of her 22-year-old son, Alex, whose kidney failed last January. After extensive testing in early July, Rendon was found to be a match.

"I would do it all over again. No questions asked," Rendon said.

Kidney transplant surgery normally requires at least six to eight weeks of recovery time, and Rendon said the Aviation Institute agreed to give Rendon unpaid leave until Sept. 1. Rendon told ABC News that on her last day of work before the surgery, her manager promised Rendon she would have her job upon her return, but one hour later, asked her to sign a letter acknowledging that her job was not secured.

"They said, 'If you don't sign this letter, you are abandoning your job and quitting,'" Rendon told ABC News. "I said, 'I am not abandoning my job. I am saving my son's life.'"

Rendon said she signed the letter after a superior at the company told her she was a "good employee" and would most likely have her job when she returned. Rendon said she'd taken holiday leave earlier this year related to the illnesses of family members, which included one week to bury her mother in Colombia in February.

Calls to the Aviation Institute of Maintenance's headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va., were transferred to the school in Philadelphia, where Rendon had worked. When asked if it would comment on Rendon's firing, its communications department said, "Absolutely not."

On Aug. 24, Rendon called Aviation Institute, saying she was not sure she could return to work by Sept. 1 because of severe back pain. She said the institute then asked her for a letter from the hospital.

The University of Pennsylvania hospital and her short-term disability provider each wrote letters to Rendon's employer, according to Rendon, indicating she would return to work Sept. 12.

On Sept. 8, Rendon said she made a social visit to her workplace and learned that her job was filled two days before. Rendon said the school cited business needs.

Rendon, who said she could walk only 10 to 15 minutes without assistance because of severe back pain, said she was still shocked about her firing.

"If they would have told me to come back that day, I would have done it," Rendon said.

Losing her job, Rendon said, means she can't pay for a new apartment she just moved into.

While her son has recovered from the transplant, Rendon said the school is trying to collect $2,000 related to time he took off for medical reasons. Rendon said the school is charging her son, who became a student December 2009, $150 to re-enroll, on top of the $2,000.

"[The school] told him he took too long of a leave," Rendon said.

Michael Foreman, clinical law professor and director of Penn State's Civil Rights Appellate Clinic, said Rendon's employer is not required to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act because it has less than 50 employees. Rendon estimated the company had about 30 employees in the Philadelphia office.

Foreman said the state of Pennsylvania, like most other states, has its own medical leave laws, but they closely mirror federal laws.

Foreman said Rendon's surgery and medical complications could possibly be covered under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act or under Pennsylvania's disabilities law. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act applies to all public and private employers in Pennsylvania with four or more employees.

"The issue is whether her surgery and complications would constitute a physical impairment substantially limiting a major life activity. That is basically the legal definition from these laws," said Foreman.

If it's determined that it does, the employer would have to provide "reasonable accommodation" requiring an examination of how keeping the position open could harm the company's business.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan172011

Docs Say Steve Jobs Likely Dealing with Pancreatic Cancer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Nearly two years since receiving a new liver and fighting a rare form of pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple Inc., announced to his employees Monday he will take an indefinite leave of absence from the company to focus on his health.

While Jobs did not address specific health reasons, many experts say it's likely that his leave is related to his ongoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

"I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can," Jobs wrote in the latest message to his team.

Jobs, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004, initially underwent surgery to remove the tumor. A few months after announcing a leave of absence in January 2009, Jobs had a liver transplant.

Experts say the length of his survival is mainly because he had a slow-growing, rare cancer called a pancreatic neuroendocrine islet cell tumor. While experts say neuroendocrine cancers are known to spread to the liver, Jobs remained private about his condition and the reason behind his transplant.

Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where Jobs underwent his transplant, confirmed that Jobs is no longer a patient at the hospital and declined to comment to ABC News about Jobs' transplant.

"You hear the term pancreatic cancer and you immediately think Pavarotti or Patrick Swayze, but this is a completely different animal," Dr. Andrew Warshaw, surgeon-in-chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, told MedPage Today and ABC News.

"For adenomas, the timeline is very short. The pace of progress with neuroendocrine cancers can be many years, even with metastatic disease. It has a different biology," said Warshaw.

Only six percent of patients with any form of pancreatic cancer live longer than five years, according to the nonprofit organization Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Neuroendocrine tumors are slow-growing, but frequently metastasize to the liver. Researchers say that appears to be what happened to Jobs, who underwent a liver transplant at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., in April 2009.

Dr. Richard Alexander, a surgical oncologist at the University of Maryland who specializes in pancreatic cancer, said this is a very rare treatment, and is usually a last resort when the metastasized cancer doesn't respond to treatments such as chemotherapy.

Dr. David Metz, a gastroenterologist at the University of Pennsylvania who conducted a 2005 literature review on liver transplant for neuroendocrine tumor metastases, said survival is variable: "Some recur in a year; others, a few years after surgery."

Data in his report noted a 52-percent survival rate two years after liver transplantation -- but he cautioned that accurate outcome data are hard to come by because the procedure is so rare.

If the tumor has recurred, Alexander said treatment options would include chemotherapy or embolization, although performing surgery "on a transplanted liver is high-risk."

Patients who undergo transplants are typically put on immunosuppressant medication to help their bodies accept the new liver. However, suppressing the immune system can allow cancer cells to grow more quickly, said Alexander.

Warshaw said patients who get immunosuppressants can respond very differently to regular cancer treatments.

"All bets are off" for understanding what type of treatment will be successful, Warshaw said.

Still, it is not clear why Jobs is taking this leave, his third since 2004. Aside from tumor recurrence, he could also be dealing with organ rejection or a possible hormone imbalance if the tumor is active.

In general, Metz said neuroendocrine pancreatic tumors are a relief "because patients stick around for a long time and we can use various modalities to treat them. The downside is that the likelihood of 'curing' people once they've metastasized is very low."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio