connie robinson virginia breast cancer survivorTimes are tough, and quite a few Americans are struggling to find work. At the same time, unfortunately, there are employers who have seemingly taken advantage of the situation and treated their employees worse and worse, using the bad economy as an excuse for their bad behavior. That might be one reason why breast cancer survivor Connie Robinson, fromRichard, Virginia, has spent the past three years not only fighting her disease but also fighting an uphill battle to stay employed.

Robinson says she was fired twice while in the midst of treatment. The first time, she was working as an employment specialist in 2009 when she learned she had breast cancer. She left work to undergo chemotherapy, and in the last week of her treatment, her employer dismissed her because she exhausted a federal leave act that allowed her to be away from work a certain number of days.

Later, she was working in a dream position at a nonprofit (in a temporary position, so she wasn't given as much protection as a full-time employee under the Family and Medical Leave Act and theAmerican Disabilities Act). But in May 2010, she became ill once again and had to go back to chemo ... And, believe it or not, once she was feeling better in fall 2010, this second employer told her she had been replaced.

Robinson told her local CBS affiliate of the firings:

I worked even when I was sick. And it didn't matter. You don't matter. ... I was blaming myself. What if I hadn't taken the chemo?

Ugh! This is heartwrenching. And how many other women have been in her shoes, as well? Thankfully, we have the FMLA and ADA to protect the rights of employees who get sick or disabled, but to some extent, it doesn't seem like these federal acts are enough. Sure, they'll give employees a window of opportunity to fight a dismissal they feel was discriminatory ... but how many cancer patients like Robinson have the wherewithal or even financial means to another battle on? That said, we clearly need better protection and safeguards for women like Connie Robinson, who need their health benefits and income more than ever when they're ill.

What's more, the mere stress of unemployment takes an enormous toll on a cancer patient's well-being. In fact, Robinson's own oncologist, Dr. Susan Schaffer, says stress from an employer who is unsympathetic to an employee's medical condition can negatively affect their treatment. That's not exactly surprising, but it is still incredibly disheartening. It's the ultimate in finding yourself between a rock and a hard place: Make a living or fight for your life? No American should have to find themselves in that position.

Here's the tearjerking local news report on Connie ...

 

What do you make of Connie's story? Do you think we need better employment protection for the sick and disabled?