Cancer cost man his job, suit alleges

CHARLESTON - A Charleston man says he was fired from his job because he has cancer. Kristopher Cook filed the lawsuit May 24 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Deaf Education and Advocacy Focus of West Virginia and Patrick Black. Black was Cook's supervisor at DEAF, which has been sued three times in the past three months. Cook says he began employment at DEAF on April 6, 2005, as a service coordinator, and that his work performance had always been satisfactory until he disclosed to DEAF that he was diagnosed with cancer. On Aug. 17, he told Black of his cancer, and said Black told him he would not be fired for missing work or any lapses resulting from his illness. However, Cook says Black became more and more hostile towards him, suggesting he start looking for another job with disability benefits since he would "no longer have a job as soon as he took off for the surgery." Cook says he was later wrongfully arrested and did not show up for work and was fired for it. "When on a subsequent date the plaintiff was arrested in error by the police," the complaint says, "the defendant saw this incident as an opportunity to get rid of the plaintiff, and thus terminated his employment on the allegation of 'no call, no shot.'" He charges DEAF with violating the West Virginia Human Rights Act and is seeking special damages for loss of wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress and humiliation. He is also seeking punitive damages. Geoffrey I. Ekenasi of Twyman Law Offices in Charleston is representing Cook. Judge Irene Berger has been assigned the case. Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-993

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