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Woman who said she was fired because of brain tumor gets $170,000

October 24, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ A woman who says she lost her job after telling her boss she had a brain tumor was awarded $170,000 by the company.

Wendy Shepard Kochylas, 32, of Manhasset on Long Island, alleges that her boss at Heisei Minerals Corp. fired her soon after she revealed her medical condition.

``We don’t want you to die here,″ Kochylas says she was told.

``That really hit me,″ she said of her last day at the Japanese company. ``I wasn’t even thinking of dying. I thought whatever it was, I’d get through it.″

``I carried out my belongings from my desk. They walked me to the elevator. I was hysterical, crying. I said, ‘This is illegal. You can’t do this.’ They said, `We’re doing this anyway,‴ she recalled.

Ms. Kochylas had to delay an operation to remove the tumor because she lost her medical benefits when she was fired, said Elizabeth Grossman, an attorney helping with Ms. Kochylas’ case.

Ms. Kochylas, who worked as an administrative assistant, said she sought help from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws.

The EEOC filed papers in U.S. District Court Thursday outlining the agreement between the company and the agency. It calls for a payment of $170,000 and a pledge by the company to obey discrimination laws.

The EEOC said that company executives violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when they fired Ms. Kochylas in February 1994, three months after they put her on unpaid leave.

``My client did not discriminate against this woman,″ said Christopher Graham, a lawyer for Heisei. ``We’re settling to avoid any more litigation, which is very expensive for a small company,″

The agreement requires the minerals trading company to adopt a new anti-discrimination policy, re-train managerial staff and provide literature on the subject to all employees.

``Now my life is great,″ Ms. Kochylas said. ``I’m cured. I had brain surgery. I’m completely healthy.″

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