Hospice Worker: Breast Cancer Got Me Fired

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A hospice attends to the physical and emotional needs of the terminally ill. If any type of business was designed around the concept of caring, it would be a hospice.

So there is a sad juxtaposition with a mother of three's allegation that her employer, the non-profit Hospice of Palm Beach County in Florida, fired her because she came down with breast cancer and could work only 30 hours a week because of treatment, according to the Associated Press. Although the story only came out now, Mitsy Tucker reportedly was fired six days before Christmas 2011 -- the same year that hospice CEO David Fielding received a 30 percent raise.

According to the organization's most recently available IRS filings, Fielding had the highest total compensation of $545,897 in 2011 -- his pay was raised for the next year to $710,537. His 2011 pay included base pay of $313,690, with $182,400 in incentive compensation and $21,496 in non-taxable benefits.

Total pay for the other 10 listed paid officers ranged from $175,267 for the chief clinical officer to $416,769 for the director of academics. The organization's total revenue for the year was almost $91 million.

Tucker, a mother of three, claimed that she coordinated home care for patients, as AP reported. She had reportedly taken a leave to get a double mastectomy, after which she needed to continue chemotherapy. That would prevent her from working more than 30 hours a week. Her termination letter included the sentence, "Failure to return to full duty after completion of Family Medical Leave may result in termination of the employee's employment."

Stella Monchick-West, who founded the hospice in 1978, called the report "unconscionable" and asked why an organization that "shows such compassion" to patients would not extend it to employees.

Five anonymous employee reviews on company information site Glassdoor gave 2.8 out of 5 stars to the Hospice. There were multiple negative comments about management, including such remarks as "upper management truly has no clue," "they will make your goals unattainable if ethey do not like you," and "there is a culture of fear and people are really afraid to state the truth or make a mistake."

Hospice of Palm Beach County gave a statement to AP:

Positive employee relations are the cornerstone of our organization, and out of respect for the individual's privacy we cannot comment on a specific case. Our commitment to fair treatment for all employees is well known in the community.

Tucker told AP that she has yet to find a new job and was unable to maintain her health insurance after being fired. She is depending on Social Security and Medicaid to cover health costs, although they won't cover breast reconstruction surgery.

In 2012, the hospice reportedly terminated 5 percent of its workforce around Memorial Day.

Company officials acknowledged at the time that executive compensation included bonuses tied partly to the organization's "gross margin" – meaning money left after expenses -- but denied that executives had incentives to increase their paychecks by firing workers.

The organization has 898 paid employees and 745 volunteers. Although it receives more than enough in fees from Medicaid and Medicare to operate, Hospice of Palm Beach County also solicits millions in donations -- $22 million over five years.
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