Tiffany & Co. Sued for Allegedly Firing Employee Over Cancer Mutation

2017-2-19 fashion Other Brands

A former Tiffany & Co. ("Tiffany") employee is suing the famed jewelry company for allegedly pushed her out after she had her breasts and ovaries removed to avoid getting cancer. Lisa O'Rourke alleges in her suit, which was filed in November in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island, that the New York-based company discriminated against her because she carries a gene mutation that put her at high risk for developing cancer.

O'Rourke, 45, states in her complaint that in 2014, she "was appointed to the newly creating role of Director of Strategic Sourcing" for Tiffany at its manufacturing facility in Cumberland, Rhode Island. Just prior to her promotion, she claims that "as a result of genetic testing, [she] learned that she was at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer."

As a result, "In January and February 2014, [she] underwent multiple surgeries to address this risk. Because of complications [her] recovery was slow and she returned to work on May 12, 2014."

She claims to have informed Tiffany that there would be more surgeries "down the line." When the time came for a third surgery in July, O'Rourke said she was initially cleared to take another leave for the surgery, but "the day before the scheduled surgery [Tiffany's] Human Resource Manager, Karen Curtis, advised [O'Rourke] that she did not have enough accrued time for additional leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, and that she should delay her surgery or her job would not be protected."

Ultimately, O'Rouke alleges that Tiffany's "Human Resource Group Director informed [her] that she should proceed with the surgery and that her job would be available when she recovered from the surgery. [She] returned to work on August 11, 2014."  

That October, O'Rourke alerted the company she would need to take another leave for the fourth surgery, and while it was approved, a month later, she was told her job was being eliminated. She asserts that she was offered a different job with less compensation and responsibility, which she turned down.

O'Rourke's attorney, Kathleen Hagerty, said it is a case of discrimination due to her genetic condition. According to Hagerty, the surgeries at issue were "life-saving," and as a result, Tiffany & Co. "needed to make reasonable accommodations.”

O'Rourke is seeking unspecified damages, back pay, punitive damages, and attorney's fees in connection with what she claims is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

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