fired for cancer

Dear NYUMC CEO Dr. Robert I. Grossman:

May 15, 2015

Dear Dr. Robert I. Grossman, Dean and CEO of NYU Langone Medical Center:

I know you run a wonderful organization. That is why I know you will be horrified to learn that management fired my mother after 38 years of her life working for New York University Medical Center. She was fired for having breast cancer.

Upon her diagnosis, she followed all doctors’ orders. She was lucky to have the care of top medical staff at your renowned facility. In March of 2011, she wrote you a letter of detailed compliment on the wonderful medical personnel at NYUMC, praising staff by name. Check your records- it was addressed to you and signed, “One Grateful Survivor.”

And now, I am writing to you on my mother’s behalf because she passed away shortly after she was fired in May of 2012.

After a superb year of remission, my mother had returned to work. She worked- even suffering through harassment from coworkers and managers alike- because she was focused on being a productive employee. Through inappropriate comments about her weight loss and malicious questions regarding her hair, she continued to work because that job was so much a part of her essence after 38 years.

Yet, in April 2012, when Dr. Roses ordered a necessary procedure, my mother was threatened that if she did not return to work on a certain date, her employment would be terminated.

Dr. Roses faxed the detailed medical explanation of the necessary two-week time period, yet it made no difference. The threat was not removed by management.

Of course, my mother followed the orders of her doctor. After returning home from her inpatient stay, she was greeted with a letter terminating her from employment for failure to return to work. Clearly, she could not return to work because she was recovering from surgery.

Just six months later, my mother died.

Because of the vast support by medical professionals that state of mind and emotional health have direct effects on our biology, we cannot ignore the possibility- the great probability- that one termination links to the other. Getting fired in such horrific fashion affected Fleurette so strongly that on her deathbed, she evoked a promise from me to share this story with you.

“Don’t let this go, Mary,” she said to me, with her kerchief askew atop her head of few remaining hairs, with her eyes still blazing with the painful indignity of management’s wrongful act.

Imagine how much grief she carried during the very brief time after being fired- grief that never left her. Please imagine 38 years of a life dedicated to NYUMC. My mother gave birth to both her daughters there. Employees knew me before I was even born. Both my broken arms were healed at your hospital. My father’s appendicitis was treated there. My sister’s finger was operated on Dr. Raskin in Hand Surgery. NYU is my alma mater. And lastly, my mother received her oncology care from NYUMC. I want you to see how intrinsic to her life NYUMC was.

To fire her because she had to take medical leave for oncological surgery is utterly crass beyond words, Dr. Grossman. I believe you must be a just and humane person and you will see in your heart the cruel injustice of management’s action.

While my mother might have been of age to retire in a few years, the choice was taken away from her in humiliating fashion.

I urge you, in all good, humane, public conscience, to do the only right thing you can do now:

1.Publish and post prominently in the facility an immediate acknowledgement and apology for what New York University Medical Center did to Fleurette Rafic, a productive employee of 38 years, and a former breast cancer survivor.
2.Create a training program specifically geared towards this situation to prevent this event from recurring to another survivor. Management of the NYUMC organization should not be allowed to engage in this behavior again.
3.Contact personally the members of management responsible with appropriate chastisement and training and demand a public letter of acknowledgement and apology.

Marek Brzozowski, Director of Inpatient Revenue Cycle and Financial Services, issued the threat and subsequent termination.


Elizabeth A. Marin (“Liz”), manager at the time, was responsible for my mother’s harassment.


I look forward to your response, confirming that you will accomplish these goals.

Thank you for your time, Dr. Grossman.

Mary Rafic, Daughter of “One Grateful Survivor”

Mary Rafic