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Posted at 09:10 PM ET, 08/03/2012

Former CEO Kathleen Mason: I was fired for having breast cancer

Kathleen Mason, who lost her job as the CEO of a Dallas-based retailer, claims through her lawyer that her dismissal had nothing to do with poor performance and everything to do with disclosing to her board th
A woman getting a mammogram (ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL - REUTERS)
at she was battling breast cancer. 

Mason has gone from “surprised and disappointed” in early June, right after Tuesday Morning announced her removal as CEO, to filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for disability discrimination on August 1.

She informed others at the firm of her diagnosis in January and February, but she insisted that her illness would not interfere with her work at Tuesday Morning. She was fired over the phone just three months later, according to her EEOC complaint, as reported in The Dallas Morning News.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a Dallas investment firm and major shareholder in Tuesday Morning claimed Mason lost her job because of poor performance, which caused an “extraordinary destruction of shareholder value.”

Since 2005, company shares have lost more than 80 percent of their value.

But Kathleen Mason and her attorney Rogge Dunn, of Clouse Dunn LLP, disagree. They claim that Tuesday Morning investors had made more than $700 million on their $117 million investment. Furthermore, during Mason’s 12-year tenure as CEO, she paid down the company’s long-term debt.

According to Dunn, the company did not convey any concern about stock price before Mason’s diagnosis.

“If you’ve been the CEO with a company for 12 years, if there was dissatisfaction with the CEO performance, typically the board’s going to say: Hey, we want to see an increase in same-store sales, or we want to see more revenue, or we want to see more profits, or cut the burn rate, or whatever it might be, and communicate that,” he said. 

“There was no communication other than: You need to resign, or retire, or you’re going to be fired.”

Tuesday Morning will not give Mason a severance package until she signs a release, said Dunn. “The story that the company is trying to sell now is that this was because they lost confidence in her, and poor performance.”

The company offered Mason a 10-year consultancy (followed by an 18-month non-compete agreement) with benefits, Dunn said. “If cancer had nothing to do with it, why would they dangle a bunch of: You sign this, you get a bunch of extra medical benefits,” Dunn said.

Asked for a response, a company spokesperson replied by email: “Tuesday Morning will be providing no commentary on the litigation activities.”

Donna Trussell  is a Texas-born writer living in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @donnatrussell.  

By Donna Trussell  |  09:10 PM ET, 08/03/2012

Tags:  breast cancer, eeoc, discrimination, tuesday morning, kathleen mason, disability

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