Reddit Chief Executive Officer, Ellen Pao, has been accused of firing an employee because she thought he was too sick to work after his battle with leukemia. Ms. Pao has been in the news recently regarding her own high-profile sexual discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Ms. Pao sued the company in 2012 for discrimination. After a very acrimonious trial, in which the company claimed she was terminated for poor performance, a jury ruled in favor of Kleiner Perkins and ordered Pao to pay $276,000 for the company’s attorneys’ fees. During the litigation, Ms. Pao became CEO of Reddit.
The employee, David Croach, says that he met with Ms. Pao in San Francisco in February, and was told that he was going to be “terminated in less than a week”. He claims that he asked her why, and she told him that he was too sick to fulfill his duties as Community Manager. This firing comes days after another popular Reddit employee, Victoria Taylor, was fired under suspicious circumstances.
Mr. Croach says that he has been battling leukemia for years, and that the former CEO, Yishan Wong, and general manager, Erik Martin, were very supportive during his chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant. After the bone marrow transplant, he believed he was cured and worked remotely for the company. He was planning a move to San Francisco to work at the Reddit headquarters when he discovered he had relapsed. His leukemia had come back stronger this time than before.
During that time, the Mr. Croach says, Mr. Wong and Mr. Martin not only kept his job open, but also continued paying him until he was ready to work. In late 2014, he was able to return to work remotely from Pittsburgh.
The Mr. Wong left the company in November of last year, and Ms. Pao took over. Ms. Pao instituted a new policy requiring all employees to work from the San Francisco office. The employee says that he flew out to San Francisco in January to attend a three-day seminar at Reddit. He discussed his future with Ms. Pao and told her he planned to move to the area within two or three months.
Less than a month later, Ms. Pao called Mr. Croach to terminate him because of his health. He begged her to reconsider, and she said that if he received clearance from a doctor to work from San Francisco he could stay on with the company. A day later, she changed her mind and terminated him. Mr. Croach says that he is grateful the company paid for his insurance coverage for a year as part of his severance package, but he does not know why he was fired.
If the allegations prove to be true, Reddit and Ms. Pao may have violated federal and state employment laws. People who are considered “disabled” by law are protected from discrimination or harassment on the basis of their disability. Not everyone with a medical condition is legally considered disabled, but if a person has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity, or has a history of a disability (such as leukemia), the person is considered disabled. If an employee (or prospective employee) is disabled, an employer is required to provide reasonable accommodation, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. This could include allowing a disabled employee to work remotely and allowing the employee to take time off for doctor’s appointments.
Unfortunately, many companies do not follow federal and state employment laws when it comes to dealing with disabled employees. The companies may not be aware of the laws, may believe that the laws don’t apply to their company, or may believe that the employee will not stand up for his or her legal rights.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that any company who violates a disabled employee’s rights should be held accountable. If you have been terminated because of a medical condition, and you believe the termination was illegal, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland disability discrimination attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She will help you obtain the compensation to which you are entitled. Call today to learn more.