Breast cancer victim asks job for schedule flexibility, gets fired

SEATTLE -- Christina Dewey insists what happened to her should never happen to anyone. When she got sick from chemotherapy, she asked her boss for some flexibility in her work schedule.

A day later, she was fired.

Dewey, 29, has been documenting her breast cancer journey since she was diagnosed on Dec. 3 -- the weekly chemo, the fear, and the e-mail she received right after a recent treatment.

"As of today, March 14, 2013, we no longer have a position for you at The Family Pet," Dewey read from an e-mail she received. "We wish you the best of luck and hope you will keep in touch."

The "you're fired" e-mail came the Family Pet Veterinary Center in Ballard. Dewey, a part time office worker, asked to adjust her work schedule after a new chemotherapy made her nauseous in the mornings.

"I understand they are a company and they have bills to pay, but I felt like I was still contributing," Dewey said.

But the email response from her employer said, in part: "...unfortunately our scheduling needs are not able to be met by your current availability. We have tried to accommodate your schedule, but our business is small and we only have so much leeway in terms of flexibility."

Dewey says she was hurt because it was just an email.

"It's so impersonal," she said.

In general, the Human Rights Commission says cancer is a recognized disability and by law, employers are obligated to enter into an "interactive process" if an employee asks for accommodations. Dewey said that never happened.

KOMO News repeatedly asked The Family Pet for comment, but they didn't return our calls and when we showed up in person at a time the business is normally open, they were closed.

"You took away the only livelihood I have," Dewey said. "Now that I have cancer and I don't physically have the ability to go out and get more, I need you to justify it at least for me, give me a good enough reason."

Dewey says she was surprised because during her first round of chemo back in December, the company was very accommodating. The Human Rights Commission told KOMO News it recommends Dewey file a complaint with its office.