A friend of mine was just fired because her sister has cancer

Sounds hyperbolic but it’s actually not. She’s a nanny. Her sister has terminal cancer. My friend (for whatever reason, I don’t know) mentioned this to the family whose child she’s caring for. She did not ask for extra time off. And they fired her, because they did not want her to be taking care of their child while tired and sad. They tried to be nice about it, but that was the reason they gave.

This seems unfair to me, but what do you think? What I think is that for all they know, this could help her quality of service, as at a time like this one may be more affectionate towards children in one’s care, not less. I think they acted rashly (and to be honest, cruelly, though I know they should feel more responsible to their own child than to his nanny).


Assuming that is the whole of the story (and I am not doubting you sir, I am just used to hearing only part of a story initially), I think your friend may do well to engage a local newspaper or tv news operation with her story. It has many of the elements a news operation would love to tell to an audience.

If she is telling the unvarnished truth here she would probably find a new, better job with caring people in very little time, and the bastards who fired her would be subjected to the usual recreational outrage that these stories generate.

So it would likely be a win-win for her. The only worry being if the family had some other dirt to cast that would make your friend look less the victim of cruel people.

Right, I am only hearing her side of course, so in my head is always the hedge “assuming what she’s saying is true”.

With that said, I’d think going to the news would both fail to get her her job back and make her prospects of future employment as a nanny much more dim.

Absurd. And in my jurisdiction (England and Wales), contrary to employment law and a case of unfair dismissal, for which she would receive legal aid, I’m glad to say.

Hrm. It didn’t even occur to me that this could be illegal.

USA dopers who know the law here, could this be illegal? The incident occured in Chicago.

Do state employment laws apply to private nannies?

Extraordinarily unlikely. Illinois has at will employment. Having a sick family member doesn’t put you in a protected class and FMLA only applies to companies with over 50 employees.

Hell, I worked at a company who fired a guy while his wife was battling brain cancer. They didn’t fire him because of it (he was part of a larger layoff) but they sure didn’t look for any way to keep him around, either.

Well with regards to her employability and it’s chances of being hurt by media exposure, I can assure you having done numerous stories of advocacy for people who were wronged that viewers and readers often come out of the woodwork to help someone who has truly been victimized.

That’s why I caution about the validity of the story. If it is fact as you have stated, then in my experience your friend will discover an outpouring of support from good people (as well as denigration from the usual anonymous message board types we all know and love) and wil likely benefit from the telling.

I do this for a living. If your friend lived in my town I’d ask for a contact, we’d call & discuss the story - get a feel for it’s telling, and proceed from there. One thing for sure, your friend can put out feelers but if she declines to speak on the record or go in front of the camera, the story will die right there. No newspaper or tv news operation will do her story without her participation: there are too many other stories to tell and if she doesn’t cooperate they won’t bother. We all have short deadlines and unless it can be done quick and easy it won’t be done (on a local level.)

But to be sure one of the reasons I am the eternal optimist is that I have seen good people come out of the woodwork to help someone who has been wronged, almost every damn time. Sister w/ cancer, fired by evil people? Please, it doesn’t come any easier that this.

If you want more advice on how to ‘deal with the media’ feel free to PM me I would be happy to explain it more.

Yeah, that’s the thing. There could be more to the story: Was she actually tired and sad? Were the family dissatisfied with the way she was doing her job? Or were they just fair-weather bozos who were scared of any connection, however indirect, with anything depressing or tragic?

That would be my instinct.

How does that work? All I know about nannies I learned from watching Mary Poppins, but it seems like such a personal job that, if anyone could get dismissed for subjective reasons (“She just didn’t click with Junior”), a nanny could.

Not a lawyer but I doubt it. She’s likely operating as a self-employed 1099 contractor and the family can terminate that arrangement for any reason at any time (unless it’s because they’re firing her for being part of a protected class).

It’s definitely a shitty reason to fire someone. If that’s the real reason they let her go, and it’s not just a cover for some other reason, then they should have waited to see if her work was actually affected by her sister’s health issues.

Or they could have just let her go without giving her a reason at all.

Update: The mother has just called my friend, crying, offering the following additional information. Her own mother died of the same kind of cancer. And they just think she should be with her sister now.

Again, “just hearing one side of it” but I’m starting to get the crazy (or maybe just irrational-because-guilty) vibes from these people. I’m not sure I even believe her mom had cancer.

I should note that my friend originally discovered she was being fired by reading an email which was accidentally (or “accidentally”?) sent to her by the mom instead of to the father.

The ADA or FMLA might cover her, but I think many of the protections may only apply to large employers. Also, are nannies usually considered to be employees under US labor law or are they independent contractors? I think bona-fide independent contractors lack many protections offered to employees.

It’s awfully “nice” of them to decide that for her. Like on top of the stress of her sister dying, she now has to worry about how she will feed herself. But she has no rights other than saying “the people I worked for were jerks.”

Coming from the other side of the PR equation, I can tell you it’s not as simple as you are trying to make it. News outlets want a bigger story than just a couple firing their nanny. Especially considering it would be VERY easy for the couple to simply say “that never happened, we fired her because she was constantly late” and there is no way to prove otherwise. The story would be DOA.

As for the OP, it seems a pretty rotten thing to do if that’s the way it happened. I’m curious, how long had she worked for them prior to her termination?

Well, there is perhaps this way to prove otherwise:

The fact is that it’s an at will state, so I think the nanny is pretty screwed. My guess is that she was probably doing a somewhat mediocre job, and her employers read into this “Oh, now on top of everything else, she’s going to be missing a ton of work at inopportune times for us”.

Yes, that seems very cruel of the parents, but my guess is that they were probably just keeping her out of laziness and not wanting to look for another nanny because it’s a pain to find someone you trust enough to be with your kids and be responsible with your possessions when you’re at work or out of town. The sister’s cancer was the last straw.

I have a gardener that we keep around simply because he speaks English and is the first non-illegal alien we’ve had doing our outside work who charges a reasonable price. He used to be decent at his job, but does a lot less than he used to. The thing is that he does just enough to not get fired. Little does he know it, but he is one “cancer-ridden sister” away from me getting rid of him too. Or at least it would appear that way to him…

I dunno, I think the reason that she was fired was because the parents *didn’t want somebody tired and sad looking after their child. *
That’s all that has been said by the people who know why they fired her. And, I do not believe it would improve the quality of service. Grief is a burden, not a stimulant.

Had she been moping around the house? Having fits of crying? If somebody is doing that around a child in their charge, I would most definitely want the child out of that situation. Who knows when uncontrolled sadness can morph into depression, and worse?
It’s rough being fired during the best of times, but, it happens. The parents’ responsibility is to the child and themselves, NOT to the nanny. It is up to the parents to determine when their child is to learn life lessons of pain and suffering, and if they don’t want the child to learn via a grieving nanny, that is certainly their prerogative.
It is very sad, but, not unfair.

It’s hard for me to even see the employer’s perspective, as I believe (regardless of my economic position) in raising my own children. If I did pay someone else to raise my children for me, I would probably treat that employee as a sort of family member and expect them to bond with my children. I wouldn’t treat it as such a disposable position, and to do so would IMHO be harmful to my child. I would treat the nanny more like a prospective step-parent than a one-night stand. I find it interesting when people not only outsource the raising of their children, but treat it as a purely menial labor thing. I don’t really see any way to twist that as really caring about the child at all. You care enough not to be bothered. Then you hire interchangeable short-term substitutes? I understand in the case of low-income parents who have to hire low-cost daycare because they have no other choice, but rich people wouldn’t do this if the children were a priority.

I’m guessing, though maybe I’m assuming too much, that the nanny needs the job and income and it’s not just some hobby. The employers probably think they are doing her a favor because in their little world it is unimaginable that someone actually needs to work and depends on serving their whims for her livelihood. It’s probably “Oh. Go be with your sister. Don’t let this little job/hobby get in your way. Take the time and live off your trust fund and savings you’ve built from babysitting.”