Fired employee brings lawsuit against Chattanooga Publishing Company

Authored By Chloé Morrison

A former employee of the Chattanooga Publishing Company, which publishes the Times Free Press, is suing the company based on claims that her boss fired her after she told him she needed surgery to treat cancer.

President of the Chattanooga Times Free Press Jason Taylor said Monday morning that he had no comment on the pending litigation.

According to a lawsuit filed late last week in the United States District Court Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga, plaintiff Debra Dunn had been working full time as the administrative assistant to Chief Financial Officer Russell Lively in September 2010.

Disgruntled employees?

Last month, details emerged about an anonymous group that aims to unionize the paper. The group has been quiet since the beginning of July. 

In spring of 2011, doctors diagnosed Dunn with cancer.

“On Aug. 18, 2011, plaintiff notified Mr. Lively that she would have to have surgery in September 2011 and would need medical leave for that reason after her employment anniversary,” according to the lawsuit.

About 30 minutes after telling her boss about the surgery, Lively allegedly terminated Dunn’s employment, telling her that he was expecting a promotion and needed someone to work full time. Dunn could no longer do this because of her cancer treatments, so he fired her, according to the lawsuit.

Dunn was also disabled or regarded as having a disability, according to the lawsuit.

Dunn’s lawyers allege that she was fired because of her perceived disability and/or because she would have to take time off to have cancer treatment.

According to the lawsuit, this termination is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Dunn is seeking back pay, reinstatement of front pay in lieu of reinstatement, the value of all employee benefits, compensatory damages for “humiliation and embarrassment,” punitive damages, and attorney fees and costs, according to the lawsuit.