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Grandmother says she was fired for breast cancer diagnosis

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WESTMINSTER, CO. —  Laura Garcia had a double mastectomy this week, the Colorado grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer in October.

Garcia says her doctor recommended two months for recovery, but when she talked to her employer she was shocked by its response.

“At that time, I was told I would have to resign or be terminated since I had only been there for six months,” Garcia told FOX31.

The kicker? Garcia works for a company that performs mammograms.  She’s a billing specialist for Touchstone Imaging.

It was actually her company that found her breast cancer.

Garcia refused to resign, so her local supervisor contacted their corporate office.

FOX31 talked to an employment attorney that said the company’s actions were illegal.  Attorney Paula Greisen said that although a employee needs to work for more than 12 months to qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act, time off for breast cancer surgery is a disability.  Therefore she would qualify for the Americans with Disabilities act, and the law requires a “reasonable accommodation.”

“It’s really somebody who’s being kicked while they’re down. Not only takes away a person’s income but at a critical time in a person’s life, they take away her access to health insurance,” Greisen told FOX31.

FOX31 contacted Garcia’s company, and talked to them about the possible violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The company’s CEO responded in a statement saying:

“We believe that we have made it clear to Laura that we look forward to her returning to work at Touchstone following her recovery. ‘Fired’ is certainly not the correct term which would infer that she has a performance problem and in which case we would not welcome her back.”

When pressed for answers about why Garcia was let go, and if she would be reinstated, a second statement said:

“We are happy to accommodate Laura’s personal preferences to remain an active employee at this time. We originally processed her absence in an administrative way that we felt was consistent with Federal guideline, knowing all along that she had a workplace family to come back to as soon as she was able. This was not communicated clearly, and we sincerely apologize.”

The company’s reversal came just hours after Garcia applied for Medicaid to pay for her surgery.