Story in The Las Vegas Sun
City of Hope worker files complaint with state
By Timothy Pratt
LAS VEGAS SUN
City of Hope website says compassion for the seriously ill
was the driving force behind the charity's founding in 1913.
a former development director for the nonprofit's Las Vegas
office says his employers were less than compassionate with
him after he fell ill more than a year ago.
Scott Dockswell -- who worked for two years raising funds
for the charity until he was fired April 17 -- has filed
a complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission and
retained a lawyer to seek damages.
said he was fired because the City of Hope knew he was sick
with Hepatitis C and would need a costly liver transplant.
He calls it a violation of the Americans with Disability
facility depends on the goodwill of the public, through
tax-exempt donations, to do what it does. But yet, they
had no regard for my future," he said.
of Hope officials would not comment on the case. Dahni Tsuboi,
deputy general counsel for City of Hope, said she is "confident
that the organization acted within the law and that Dockswell's
allegations are incorrect."
spokesman, in response to calls to City of Hope's board
about its work, referred a reporter to the charity's website.
took the job at City of Hope in 1999, after eight years
of similar work at other Las Vegas Valley nonprofits. The
charity raises money through offices in 15 cities around
the country primarily to support a research and treatment
hospital for cancer and other illnesses near Los Angeles.
Patients come from across the country for treatment.
began exhibiting symptoms such as tiredness and inability
to lose weight as early as May 2001 but wasn't diagnosed
with Hepatitis C until January this year. Between those
dates, in October 2001, he received an evaluation that said
he "marginally met expectations" in his job.
fund-raiser said he asked the charity to approve an assistant
to help him in the office but never received a definitive
response. He changed his schedule to work early and late
in the day from December 2001 on because the disease was
tiring him at midday. > > Elayne Tessler, a volunteer who
helps raise funds in Sun City, said Dockswell helped her
chapter of 520 volunteers greatly.
of his help, we raised about $70,000 from October 2000 to
October 2001," Tessler said. "As far as I'm concerned, he
was a big asset to City of Hope."
said he put his disease-related problems in writing the
first time in his monthly report for March.
would always tell me, 'Don't worry, we'll be in touch if
we feel the being sick affects your work, we're behind you,"'
April 15 Dockswell was told the charity was "separating
his employment" because he was "not meeting company expectations,"
was not given severance pay; under law, he can continue
his health insurance package for 18 months if he assumes
the cost of the premium.
his illness requires a liver transplant and a lifetime of
drugs; the operation alone will cost at least $350,000.
said he was disappointed by the nonprofit's treatment.
could have pursued any number of options," he said. His
attorney is now pursuing some of them, including two years
of severance pay plus insurance premiums for the rest of
his life, or retaining him as a consultant with full medical
benefits. A letter seeking a settlement was sent June 17.
City of Hope had not responded as of today.
Nevada Equal Rights Commission was to begin processing Dockswell's
such as Dockswell's are often tough to prove, Lynda Parven,
administrator of the commission, said.
disabilities, it's hard to measure an employer's treatment
of other people in the same category because they're not
required to keep records of disabilities," Parven said.
"So it's harder to establish if there's a pattern of discrimination."
the agency is not allowed to comment on specific cases,
the administrator said that employees must prove that the
employer's claim of poor performance was a pretext.
get a lot of cases of terminations that seem to be wrong
in my opinion, but there's no proof that they are against
the law," she said.
Patricia and Scott Dockwell pose in their home