The Houston Employment Law Blog - Find Houston Employment Lawyers

Grandma Fired For Cancer; What Are Her Damages?

Her boss said that Crowne Plaza Hotel would stand by her, and hold her job. He even told her that his wife, who had survived breast cancer, would call her and let her know what to expect.

Janet Hustus' employer did exactly what employers are required to do, at least until they fired her, reports ABC News.

Her employer says she was let go, four days after returning to work, due to "unrelated issues." They had to cut back departments and hers was on the list. But Hustus thinks it was due to insurance costs, as she had multiple follow-up surgeries left.

Though Hustus ended up finding a new job, she still amassed medical bills due to being uninsured and unemployed. Now, she's suing for wrongful termination. The question is, what damages can she claim?

Often times, when people immediately find new jobs, there is no legal recourse in a civil court. One of the fundamental elements of any civil suit is to demonstrate damages. If you are fired, yet immediately find a job that is the same or better, then your damages are probably limited unless you can get punitive damages (see below). Most of the time, in these situations, it probably wouldn't be worth your time and money to hire an attorney to get a couple of week's worth of wages.

It's a different story for Janet Hustus. If she can prove wrongful termination, not only can she get those lost wages, which probably aren't much, but she can also be compensated for the medical bills. The recovery would be limited to whatever amount they exceed what they would have been she not been terminated. So, if her insurance would have covered 90% of the bill, and she had to pay 100% out of pocket, she could probably get that 90% back.

Under Texas law, punitive damages are also allowable, if the employer's conduct was "outrageous, malicious, or otherwise reprehensible." Certainly, a jury could find that firing a woman for having breast cancer is reprehensible, assuming she can prove it. Punitive damages are capped at $200,000 in Texas.

Related Resources: