Hospice nurse with breast cancer fired while on leave for treatment

Woman terminated due to health reasons, woman's husband says

A hospice nurse who had to undergo radiation treatments as she battled breast cancer was fired from her job while on leave.

Chrissy Ballard said she’s devastated over being fired because she really loved her job, and to make the hit harder, she was terminated two days after receiving an anniversary card from her employer, thanking her for her service.

“I’m in the middle of radiation right now,” Ballard told CNN. “I’ve had a complete pathological response to the chemo treatment, which was TCHP, had surgery back in August, and have 11 more radiation treatments to go, so that’s good news.”

Ballard took leave almost as soon as she began radiation treatment, per offering from her employer.

“It was said, ‘Hey, we want to immediately put her on leave so she can draw her short-term disability’ — for that I was very thankful, but after that, there was zero conversation about what an accommodation would look like,” said Matt Ballard, Chrissy’s husband.

Matt said he’d spoken regularly with Chrissy’s employer throughout her treatment.

“It was very supportive up until, I think, about two months into her leave,” he said.

[READ NEXT: Breast cancer affects men, too, and with higher mortality ratesBaby born via uterine transplant in landmark clinical trial11 times Selma Blair made us want to hug her during her fight with multiple sclerosis]

Around that time, Chrissy received an anniversary card from her employer that read, “Thank you for your contributions and hard work — they’re truly appreciated.”

Matt said the company contacted him and told him the human resources department wanted to know how Chrissy was doing.

“I said, ‘Well, she’s between her fifth and sixth rounds of chemo, so this is really the apex of the treatment and she’s having a tough time,” Matt told CNN.

He responded to the employer, who then asked when Chrissy would be able to return to work, which she could do part time.

“The next day I get a call … Her boss says, ‘I’ve got bad news. We’re going to have to terminate her, and it’s a business decision.’”

Matt asked to get the notice of termination in writing and said days later, they received a termination notice, which said Chrissy was in good standing, eligible for rehire and was terminated due to health reasons.

Matt said he offered options to the company so that they would have no benefit expenses for Chrissy, but the company continued with the termination.

Caris Healthcare officials told CNN that they could not talk specifics and followed legal procedure.

“Reasonable accommodations were extended,” the company said, in part, in a statement. “The individual has not sought to be rehired and remains eligible for rehire with reasonable work accommodations if needed, if and when she is able to return to work.”

Chrissy, however, said she has not been told what those accommodations might be and that she and her husband were willing to go to mediation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but Caris did not respond to the offering within the 30-day time period.

“She loved this job so much, because being a hospice nurse is frankly a very sacred calling to help people die with dignity," Matt said of his wife. "Knowing how much she loved this job and knowing how severe these treatments were, I just wanted to do whatever it took to get her back in the saddle and give her a goal to shoot for.”