Watch CBS News

Woman Files Suit Against Employer Who Fired Her Hours After Cancer Diagnosis

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The day Elisa Madonia learned she had cancer, she thought things couldn't get any worse, but they did.

She says just a few hours after her doctors told her employer she would need some time off for cancer treatments and surgery, they fired her.

CBS 2's Dana Kozlov tells us why she's fighting back.

"I've been fighting for my life," said Madonia.

One thing Elisa Madonia didn't think she'd have to fight for after her cancer diagnosis was her four year job at property management company S37. She was wrong.

"Not only I'm being hit with a disease, that I have cancer, now you take my job too away from me?" said Madonia.

Madonia's ordeal began last October, right after doctors told her she had stage three esophageal cancer.

Doctors sent her employers letters about her illness and her possible need for some significant time off for chemo, radiation and surgery. Less than two hours after getting that letter, Madonia says her boss called her in to the office, suggested she resign and offered to pay six months of COBRA if she signed a separation letter. Then they terminated her.

"For the worst possible moment of her life, being diagnosed with stage three esophageal cancer, that was just the cruelest thing I ever heard," said Kathleen Derosa, Madonia's caregiver.

"I think they had an obligation to sit down with Elise and say, hey, what can we do here? Can you work three days a week? Can you telecommute for some period of time? Instead of the knee jerk reaction of firing her on the spot. That's illegal," said Eugene Hollander, Madonia's attorney.

The allegations are laid out in a disability discrimination lawsuit. In the meantime, Madonia continues to concentrate on her recovery.

S37's attorney Brian Garelli says he hasn't seen the lawsuit so isn't able to comment.

After months of treatments, Elisa had surgery two weeks ago. She's supposed to get out of the hospital this week.

Elisa Madonia's friends and family are raising money for her medical treatments. To donate, visit

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.