Man Gets Fired After Wife Gets Cancer
Massachusetts accountant Carl Sorabella had every reason to believe that his employer would grant his request for a more flexible schedule so that he could assist his wife, who had just been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer and given only months to live. After all, he'd been with Haynes Management in Wellesley, for 13 years, and had just been given a raise in November.
But instead of a more accommodating schedule, he got a pink slip in response to his request, even though he had made it clear that he was willing to work nights and weekends to make up for the time he intended to spend taking his wife in for treatments and tests.
"It shocks me," said Kathleen, Sorabella's wife of 23 years. "People are supposed to help each other. I guess corporate America is different." When AOL Jobs reached her, she had just finished her first round of chemotherapy, and was "wicked nauseous." Their current financial troubles are not helping matters. With Sorabella out of a job and his wife too sick to work, they're not sure how they're going to cover her expenses.
Sorabella was sure that he would be able to arrange a more flexible schedule -- after all, he was head of the accounting department at Haynes, and had been with the company almost 14 years. But he says that his boss was afraid that if Sorabella wasn't there during regular business hours it could cause problems.
"It's business. I'm running a company here, and I need to make sure the department runs," she told him. Sorabella said that he assured her that he would see that the company runs well, working at any hour of the day or night to make up for the time he spent caring for his wife, but to no avail.
Sorabella says that his boss told him they were thinking about laying him off anyway, due to "modifications in workforce requirements." He thought, "you can't do that!" reports Boston's ABC affiliate WCVB. He says that he later saw an employment ad for his old job with the same company.
No one from Haynes Management has been available for comment, but in an email to WCVB reporter Susan Wornick, Vice President Mary Butler wrote, "this is a private personnel matter and we are not going to comment publicly."
Harsh treatment for a dedicated, longtime employee. Unfortunately, Sorabella has no legal recourse. Federal and state laws that protect workers from this kind of treatment only apply to larger companies with more than 50 employees.
For now, Sorabella is on unemployment, and his wife is on disability. But the two have always been fighters, and have faith that they can get through this together. Kathleen was homeless when they first met. Sorabella was a bus driver and found her sleeping in the back of his bus. The two have accomplished much since then.
After they got married, he earned an accounting degree, she set up a homeless shelter and earned bachelor's and master's degrees in social science, the latter which she just completed three years ago. She's still paying off her $60,000 student loan.
Both her cancer, and her treatment, are aggressive. Colon cancer had spread to her lungs when they found it, and doctors were able to remove the main tumor, along with part of her colon, including 10 inches of intestine. They're hoping the chemo will take care of the more than 55 nodules in her lungs.
Sorabella's COBRA payments for his health plan were too expensive, but the couple still has minimal coverage from his wife's disability. She had been employed as a social worker in the prison system.
Sorabella is still looking for work as an accountant -- he says that he'll take part-time -- anything he can find. But after they get through this and his wife recovers -- and they're confident she will -- he'd like to go back to school and get a nursing degree.
In the meantime, however, there are more urgent matters to attend to. "We don't know how we're going to pay our bills," says Kathleen Sorabella. "But we keep telling each other as long as we love each other -- it doesn't matter. We'll get through this. I'm going to get better."
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Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning multi-media journalist and author of Career Comeback--Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want. Her work has been translated into 20 different languages, and she is a frequent expert guest and commentator on news and talk shows. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, on the CBS Early Show, NBC Today, CNBC, Fox Business News, Dr. Phil, Oprah.com and many other media outlets. Lisa discusses her AOL pieces each week and interviews vital guests on the web TV show, This Week in Careers. Learn more on LisaJohnsonMandell.com.