Unfit To Be A Role Model?

While running her own locksmith business suits Abbe Favocci just fine, it's not her dream job. She was fired from that last year.

"They don't put this on soap operas," she says. "People wouldn't believe it."

Favocci worked for Weight Watchers of northern New Jersey. A "before-and-after" success story who started out wearing size 24 shorts and ended up losing 70 pounds. She was so successful that Weight Watchers paid her to inspire others.

"Every time I held these up," she tells CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod, "my members did exactly what you're doing now 'wow,'"

She was a walking, talking testimonial, and things couldn't have been better until she was diagnosed with colon cancer.

She ate to settle a stomach made queasy by chemo. She couldn't exercise and had to take body-bloating steroids. When Favocci gained 20 pounds, the company told her she was finished.

"If it's anything over 10 pounds they terminate you," she says.

And the company's reaction to the fact that she had cancer was, "we're sorry, that's the way the policy is."

Having rushed back to her job two weeks after her release from the hospital to support thousands of others in their struggles to lose weight, Fovacci's services were no longer required. It seems that in the eyes of Weight Watchers of northern New Jersey, this cancer patient was not a good role model.

"They stated in the letter that I was not a role model anymore because I could not achieve my weight," she says.

Favocci went to the New Jersey division on civil rights. Investigators looked into her case and recently ruled that there's enough there for her to go to court.

"You cannot terminate an employment relationship because somebody has cancer that causes the individual to gain weight," says Frank Vespa-Papaleo, the director of the New Jersey division on civil rights.

Weight Watchers refused to answer our repeated requests for comment.

As for Favocci, her holiday wish list is short.

"I wouldn't mind having my job back," she says.

It'll unlikely be met.

Weight Watchers of northern New Jersey apparently has much better "role models" to offer.

Copyright 2002 CBS. All rights reserved.


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