Newspaper Settles With Employee With Stage IV Cancer Who Was Terminated

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Chattanooga Publishing Company, parent company of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has settled with an employee who was terminated after she came down with stage IV breast cancer.

The settlement with Debra Dunn came as preparations were being made for trial. The amount of the settlement was not given.

A Knoxville mediator helped work out the settlement terms.

The mediation came after Federal Judge Curtis Collier, in a 26-page ruling, found that Ms. Dunn had a valid claim.

Ms. Dunn joined the newspaper in September 2010 as the administrative assistant to chief financial officer Russell Lively. She was diagnosed with cancer the next spring, but continued to do her duties on a flexible schedule.

The suit says Ms. Dunn notified Mr. Lively on Aug. 18, 2011, that she would be needing surgery. It says she was fired 30 minutes later.

Judge Collier said Ms. Dunn "apologized for her health-related absences but noted 'obviously she had no control over getting cancer.' He said Mr. Lively responded that she "could not stay on as his assistant, adding, 'I can't have times when I don't have somebody here to do the work that I need done. You've got to deal with your cancer and that's what you should do is just deal with that right now.'"

The suit says Mr. Lively said he was expecting a promotion and needed someone who could help him full time.

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