Wife Gets Cancer, Husband Gets Fired

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

 I’ll compress the facts of this case in order that I get to the heart of what is wrong here. A Massachusetts Accountant’s wife has Stage IV Lung Cancer, with a prognosis of months to live. He went to his employer of 13 years, with whom by their own admission he had an exemplary record, to request a flexible schedule so that he could assist his wife. He was fired by them instead and has been unable to get another job. Friends of the family have expressed interest in assisting but are daunted by the task of setting up a fund.

 Welcome to the America of 2011, where the bottom line is profit and loyalty is a one-way street, only to be invoked for the employer’s benefit. The links below will provide the story in detail, but I’d like to take this to a more macrocosmic level. My thanks are given to Jerry Wolkoff, his blog and to my wife for making me aware of this heartbreaking story.


 Jerry Wolkoff Blog: HAVE A HEART!  Update: Man Gets Fired After Wife Gets Cancer   

While in the history of the industrialized world many employers were smart enough to realize that loyalty of employees was a two-way street, for the most part most employees were considered expendable cogs in the business wheel. This indeed was taught when I was a Business Major in college in the early 60’s.

 It was called Theory X and looked at threat of job loss a being a great motivator for getting the most out of workers and/or paying them as little as possible. It seemed wrong to me then and when later in my career I had hundreds of employees working for me, it still seemed a bad idea. I succeeded as a “boss” by showing the same loyalty to my employees that I expected them to show me.

Since the age of Reagan, with the Union movement being diminished and with good stock market share price the most important outcome for corporate leadership, employees are viewed again as replaceable cogs, despite individual skill levels. We know that famous, or infamous based on perspective, careers have been built by CEO’s coming into a company and firing employees in droves, to drive up their market price. Much younger employees, with much cheaper salaries, replace those fired. Other times these jobs are resurrected overseas, for sweatshop wages. While corporate profits skyrocket, our industrial base is tenuous and unemployment is rampant. Proponents of this strategy argue that this is a result of a free market regulating itself and the displaced workers should “be responsible” and learn new skill sets to regain employment.

 What is lost in this are the many corporations going down this path towards their own destruction. Only within the past few years Circuit City destroyed itself by firing it most experienced, higher paid sales staff. They found to their detriment that workers have different skill levels and are not mere easily replaceable with cheaper, less experienced ones.

 The cognitive dissonance abroad in our country shared by the many that support  corporate predations over their own self-interest may seem unfathomable. This is not necessarily the case though. Many non-Professionals who work for a living are themselves in fear that they will be cast among the unemployed despite their hard work. They may adopt a don’t rock the boat mentality having a psychological defense mechanism of Reaction Formation, or even “Stockholm Syndrome” and so view management as their “Liege Lords.”

 I believe that this corporate philosophy is incorrect and dysfunctional. I hold that this dysfunctional state is true for the company itself, as well as its’ employees. My experience is that workers thrive under good, caring treatment and work harder than even expected. My sense is that profit making companies benefit when their workers thrive and ultimately fall apart when fear in the ranks distracts workers from doing their jobs.

 I must return though to the take off point of this story. This husband and wife and the trying time they are going through. It is easy to spout socio/political theory when one is not personally affected by the tragedies caused by the crisis of individual lives. What words of comfort are there for this man who by all reports worked hard and diligently for his firm, only to be discarded in his families time of need? We all sputter on about the mythology of the American Work Ethic, spurred on by a mythology exemplified by Horatio Alger. Alger’s heroes all worked hard, for a fact, but each and every one succeeded by an accident of fate, or marrying the boss’s daughter. Where did the “Work Ethic” and playing by the rules get this husband and wife?

 Is this to be one sad story in an ongoing saga of sad stories as the American Dream fades into its sunset, replaced by a Third World reality? Shouldn’t company’s and employers be better than this, or is that just vain fantasy?

24 thoughts on “Wife Gets Cancer, Husband Gets Fired”

  1. If we assume that Mr. Sorobellas had employer-provided health insurance, could the costs of end-of-life-care have led to his firing? And what about the Family Medical Leave Act?

  2. Best way to get payback on Haynes Management for Firing an Employee for his wife having cancer is to find out what companies are renting space at Haynes owned buildings. Then, write letters that you will boycott their services if they continue to pay rent at their Haynes location. Write ads in the papers saying these companies, then list all the companies that rent at a Haynes location, purchase space at Haynes management buildings – a company that fires people if they or their spouse gets sick. Go after the renters. Also, in the ad, show a picture of the sick woman dying of cancer. Going after the money is the best payback anyone can do. There is no excuse for cruelty. Cold blooded people are just cold blooded people. Money is more important than God for the Firing Squad representatives of Haynes Management Company.

  3. If the media gave this story even one half percent of the attention it is to the Anthony Trial this company would be changing it’s tune.

  4. I see that people have started leaving their thoughts on Yelp about Haynes Management, although only 2 of 26 recent negative reviews remain public when I checked. The others have been removed for TOS violations.

  5. This is further evidence of a giant communist conspiracy. Spearheaded by the Koch brothers and the masters of the universe the efforts are to so damage the concept of capitalism and so abuse the working people that they will see nothing to lose any more & cause a communist revolution.

    This makes more sense that to believe these people actually think this is smart bussiness.

  6. And make sure YOU give at least two weeks notice prior to departing company A for the greener pasture of company B, after-all, you wouldn’t want to appear to be disloyal or ungrateful.

  7. I think this happens a good deal, I had the same thing happen to me over the birth of a child with ill health.

    It sucks and that is why I dont work for a company.

    I went to a farmers market today and had one of the best cookies I have ever had. A mother and daughter partnership. That is what people ought to do, fuch these bean counters.

    That man ought to “steal” those clients from his previous employer, if I was one I would use him in a heartbeat if he did a good job.

  8. Gene H:

    I have always thought that profits should be shared with your employees and that health care expense is part of the cost of an employee.

    I believe when the individual is making a quarterly dividend based on the last quarters profits, they work a good deal harder and are more careful with the small stuff. It cuts into their profits.

    The money should also be given to them and not placed in a retirement account unless they chose to do that.

  9. This happened to me… I was in my second year teaching for a school district, doing exemplary work (numbers were up, my supervisor and principal had delivered sterling observations and conferences), and my then-2 year old son’s cancer intensified. I was told that I had missed too many days of work (despite not even using my allotted sick days) and would not be offered a contract for the following school year – this was in October. It’s par for the course nowadays – what do employers care? There are plenty more unemployed people to take the place of those with catastrophic illnesses.

  10. Roco,

    Unfortunately a lot of privately held companies try to emulate strategies of publicly traded corporations. Even among private companies, Jim Goodnight is an exception and not a rule. What is wrong with corporate America has more to do with the “greed is good/greed is the primary driver profitability” mentality. The short term profit is no profit when it harms productivity and long term profitability. The world is full of now defunct private and publicly traded companies that made a lot of short term profits but died as penniless business ventures in the end.

  11. here is their address if anyone wants to send them a check:

    Readers who would like to support the Sorabellos can send funds directly to them at

    14 Lincoln St.,
    Natick, Mass., 01760-4721.

  12. Willy,

    You must be cut from the same cloth, where do you find the bitches to dig the ditches? No body wants to work, offer a white man a spic’s job and they complain.

  13. Most American Business is run on the Pimp model:
    1) Bitch, get out there and make me my money.
    2) Shut your mouth and be happy with what you got.
    3) Don’t make me choke a bitch.

  14. Gene H:

    I agree with you that Haynes is in for a hurting come tax time and that this was bad business for them. And hats off to Jim Goodnight. Sharing the profits (if that is what he does) with employees and treating them well is good for business.

    How much money does an owner need?

    And there is something wrong with corporate America at least public companies.

  15. Hey Spintales,

    You went to college, RIGHT? Did you not learn “HOW” to proof read this bogus crap?

    I checked Snopes and absolutely nothing about this was on it. Don’t dis the Godfather of the Republican party. If it were not for his teaching and hard lines we would still have Carter. I bet you picked peanuts as well. Next you will say you built house. At least OUR PRESIDENT HAD BALLS!

  16. I am sorry for your friends….this is part of what is wrong with America……Profits….duty to the Shareholders…..

  17. Mike S.,

    A truly moving and sad story.

    Having worked in management in corporations where Theory X was the promulgated norm, I’ll say not only is it wrong, but it is counterproductive. People who work in an environment of fear are not going to be happy and therefor do no produce to their true potential. I realized this early on by witnessing how people in these environments will readily do things like take extra sick leave or sick leave when they are not ill and give their superiors false information if the false information is what their bosses want to hear instead of the reality of a situation – a recipe for bad decision making. As a manager consequently I never ran my teams by the Theory X method. I wanted my employees to know that the only thing they had to fear was never telling me the truth about a project. I told them it was my job to not only give them the tools they needed to do their jobs efficiently but to manage the expectations of senior management and that as long as they could do their job to the best of their abilities that helped me to do my job to the best of my abilities. As part of my duty to the employees, I also made it clear that whatever problems they may have outside of work that was impacting their work, they could come to me and I’d do what I could to either help them resolve the issue or find an accommodating solution and if a solution required running interference with HR that I would do so. Consequently, I had people fighting to get on my teams instead of fighting to get off of them. In comparison to other managers, I found that I had very few if any productivity problems. Loyalty breeds not just loyalty. It creates an environment that encourages productivity rather than encouraging an environment where people are miserable, feel unappreciated and are encouraged to perform substandard or wrong work just to meet managerial expectations that may be out of line with reality.

    Companies should be better than Theory X. The last place I worked that practiced Theory X (a publicly traded communications company), I swore I’d never work in a company that condones such practices again. Despite this company’s repeated efforts to rehire me over the years, sometimes at ridiculous pay raises, I’ve turned them down every time.

    What has happened to Carl and Kathleen Sorabella is a personal and professional tragedy. My heart goes out to them both. It was a inhumane decision that punished a good employee and his wife for something out of their control in the name of savings on their for profit provided health insurer who would have – in turn and for their insurance company profits – passed the treatment costs back to Haynes Management in the form of higher premiums. The greed that caused this employer disloyalty is two-fold. In return for this savings, Haynes Management has not realized a savings substantial enough to offset the damage to productivity that their actions will result in. Namely a general decrease in worker satisfaction as the story of their disloyal treatment of the Sorabella’s spreads throughout the company and a decrease in productivity as those dissatisfied workers quit looking out for the best business solutions in place of ones they think management wants no matter how out of touch with reality management might be.

    As a business man, I’d not only not work for a company that mistreats their employees such as Haynes Management, I also look to not do business with companies that mistreat their employees in such a fashion. While many, too many, in the business world are amoral enough they don’t care and will still do business with company’s like Haynes, quite a few are not so bereft of common sense, business sense or compassion for good and loyal workers. Business ethics don’t have to be an oxymoron. Sadly though, your idea that ethical business behavior is not a vain fantasy, it is rather a sad fact because of the number of amoral people in management positions. That is a problem created not by fantasy, but by poor hiring practices. Like any poor business practice, it can be corrected. All it takes is the will to do the right thing instead of always doing the most expedient or immediately profitable thing.

    For an example of a company that does the right thing by their employees and rakes in huge profits for their efforts, I submit the positive example of SAS Institute, a privately held North Carolina software developer. As a privately held company, the CEO and co-founder Jim Goodnight is not subject to the often unrealistic profit expectations that publicly traded companies are subjected to by shareholders. The buck stops with him. As such, his practices of treating his employees well – even if they cost in the short term – have paid out massively in the long term.



    Greed is not good business. Short term profitability as a primary focus is not good business. Servicing short term shareholder expectations to the exclusion of practices that benefit the company’s long term goals is not good business.

    What Haynes did to the Sorabellas is not good business.

    When the Ghost of Marley roars “BUSINESS? Mankind was my business! Their common welfare was my business! ” It was in regret of decisions he had made like those made by Haynes Management regarding the Sorabellas.

  18. Mike.S
    It seems that this numbness to mans suffering,started after Kennedy,Kennedy and King assassinations.The daily drumbeat on the news of mans inhumanity to man.And people are sympathetic but there seems to be such suffering of people lately,it seems as if you don’t know where to put your emotions.This IMHO.To add to your post:

    Croton mail carrier fights to keep early hours to care for disabled daughter

    ‘CROTON-ON-HUDSON — A postal worker intent on keeping his early morning shift so he can care for his severely disabled daughter has delivered a lawsuit to his employers at the U.S. Postal Service.

    Just before Father’s Day, George Ulrich of Croton filed a request for trial with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, aiming to force the Postal Service to allow him to continue beginning work at 5 a.m. so he can get home in time to pick up his daughter, Victoria, at the bus stop”


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