Kathleen Mason, the former CEO of Dallas-based discount retailer, Tuesday Morning, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company on May 16 for firing her last year just months after she revealed that she had breast cancer. After having headed the company for 12 consecutive years, she was abruptly fired during a phone call last June. She claims that her dismissal was a result of her diagnosis and not her performance.
Although Tuesday Morning had not been doing too well in the past few years, its decision to fire Mason without warning did not have sufficient grounding. Mason’s lawyer, Rogge Dunn, argued that she had seen the company’s growth during her 12-year tenure. This lawsuit follows a disability discrimination complaint that Mason filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year. Mason filed a lawsuit under provisions of the Texas Commission on Humans Rights Act, which protects individuals against unlawful employment discrimination. It is illegal to fire someone for medical reasons.
Mason had continued working full time with Tuesday Morning after her diagnosis, and did not let her cancer interfere with her duties. The lawsuit defends Mason’s performance during her tenure at Tuesday Morning. According to the lawsuit, Mason expanded the company from 400 to 800 stores, helped the company remain profitable following the prolonged worldwide economic downturn of 2008, and left the company with no long-term debt. Mason managed almost 11,000 employees in 800 stores that generated more than $900 million per year. She was named the 2010 Texas Businesswoman of the Year by the Women's Chamber of Commerce of Texas.
Although her contract had been renewed in March 2012 and included a salary raise and other performance incentives, Mason claims that the directors at Tuesday Morning treated her differently after she informed them of her diagnosis. She also mentions how one board member made a sarcastic comment about her hair when she was wearing a wig.
Tuesday Morning claims that Mason’s termination was lawful and that her accusations are without merit. In announcing her dismissal in June, Tuesday Morning had said it was time to transition to a new executive who would "guide the company through its next stage." Brady Churches was hired as CEO, but he resigned after just six months. Since then the company has suffered a series of losses and executive departures.
Mason’s sudden dismissal following her breast cancer diagnosis represents the growing problem of workplace discrimination. Firing someone for taking unpaid leave while battling cancer or for coming out as gay is wrong, especially when that person is qualified in every other aspect. As long as a person can efficiently perform his duties, factors like gender, race, disability, marital status or medical reasons should not matter.