WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CN) - A chef who developed diabetes after a pancreas operation claims the American Yacht Club fired him because his illness caused the club's insurer to raise premiums. He claims the general manager of the club, Larry Kaiser, told him bluntly, "You're the reason the health care coverage is more expensive."
William Keating sued the club and Kaiser in Westchester County Court.
Keating says he worked as executive chef at the American Yacht Club since 1996, but went on medical leave in November 2007 when he thought he had pancreatic cancer. The tumor turned out to be noncancerous, but he had to have his gallbladder removed, which caused him to develop diabetes.
Keating returned to work at the yacht club in April 2008, and in addition to his own duties, he took on sous-chef responsibilities in 2009. In August 2009, insurance copays for club employees increased by 350 percent and the group insurance premium increased by 30 percent.
He claims that's when Kaiser told him, "You're the reason the health care coverage is more expensive."
Keating says he was fired without cause in February 2010.
"Defendants terminated plaintiff because he is diabetic and viewed plaintiff's disability as a burden," the complaint states. "Plaintiff's termination could not be based on his bad performance because he was given more tasks as an executive chef, took over all the job duties of the sous-chef after he returned from his medical leave, and was given a $22,000 bonus for his excelling performance while still employed by the defendants."
Keating says the yacht club did not fire him for financial reasons either, since they gave him a $22,000 bonus and never asked him to cut back on hours or take a lower salary.
"Shortly after plaintiff's unlawful termination, defendants hired and provided a full-time salary to both an executive chef and sous-chef to assume plaintiff's former role," according to the complaint.
Kaiser knew that Keating had to take insulin pills and shots, but Keating says Kaiser repeatedly accused him of being "drunk" on job, as he took the medication.
Keating seeks $6 million in punitive and compensatory damages, alleging wrongful termination and employment discrimination on the basis of disability. He is represented by Marshall Bellovin with Ballon Stoll of Manhattan.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.