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Labor & Employment

Legal Secretary Sends E-Mail About Cancer Surgery, Is Fired, Suit Says

Posted Nov 30, 2009 11:23 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Within two hours after she e-mailed everyone at her New York law firm that she had cancer and was going to have to take two weeks off for surgery, a legal secretary had been fired, she alleges in a lawsuit.

Theodora Benedict, 61, was invited to return to Tarnow & Juvelier several weeks later, after filing a complaint with the state Division of Human Rights about her October 2007 termination. But then, she says, she was fired again before the end of the year, reports the New York Post.

Although the law firm was closed at the end of 2007, it was then reconfigured under a new name—and all the other staff, except her, were rehired within a month or so, Benedict contends.

Her lawyer, Michael Borrelli, says the reconfiguration was a pretext for employment discrimination. He is seeking back pay and punitive damages for his client, who was earning $50,000 a year.

Partner Martin Juvelier denies the lawsuit's claims, telling the newspaper that Benedict walked of her own choice.

"She definitely wanted to leave," he says. "I told her, 'You're always welcome to work for me.' "

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