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EMPLOYEE SUES ZIONS BANK OVER CANCER SURGERY DELAY

A Zions Bank employee has sued the bank for $5 million because her supervisor refused to give her a day off to have surgery on a cancerous sore.

Gina Cook, 44, tried for four months to get a day off needed to have a sore on her lip removed, according to the suit filed in 3rd District Court. Assistant Vice President Gaylene Kinney repeatedly denied the request, "claiming that Cook was too busy at the bank," the suit says.Cook has since been diagnosed with an aggressive form of skin cancer that will likely kill her, the complaint says. She has had to have part of her chin and lower lip surgically removed. The cancer has moved through the jaw to her chest and lymph nodes.

Zions Bank officials could not be reached for comment.

Cook faced the surgical removal of her jaw and lymph nodes, although she was told "she would have only a 20 percent chance of survival and that if she did survive, she would have a very low quality of life," the suit says.

Cook has decided not to have that surgery. "It was the toughest decision she has ever made in her life," said Roger Hoole, Cook's attorney. Instead, she has opted to undergo immunotherapy.

Cook, a mother of three, first noticed a small lump in her lip last fall. She thought the lump would develop into a pimple and clear up. Instead, by Thanksgiving, it had become a small sore. The sore did not clear up, and she saw a physician on her lunch hour in January.

He referred her to a specialist. Cook saw the specialist on Feb. 1. The physician told her the lump must be promptly removed, a procedure that would require a day in the hospital.

Cook asked Kinney for the time off. "Ms. Kinney informed Ms. Cook that maybe Ms. Cook would be able to schedule a day off for the procedure in April of 1994 if the bank was not too busy," the complaint says.

Cook repeatedly asked for the day off over the next few months, telling Kinney that skin cancer ran in her family and that she could feel something growing in her jaw.

In April, Cook told Kinney that she had scheduled the surgery for April 22 and requested the day off for the surgery. Kinney refused, and the surgery had to be postponed, the complaint says.

Cook was allowed to have the surgery on May 20. Eleven days later, Cook's physician told her she had an aggressive form of cancer.

Two days later, she underwent surgery to have part of her face removed. The surgeon discovered that the cancer had spread, the suit says.

During the four months Cook was denied a day off, she says she was also required to work 203.75 hours of overtime.

Cook believes that the cancer would not be terminal if she had been allowed to have the surgery in February, Hoole said. "She certainly feels like the bank has deprived her of a good chance of beating this," he said.

Cook continues to work for Zions Bank in the electronic funding department, Hoole said.