Houston TV producer claims job loss following cancer treatments

Kelly Holleran Aug. 19, 2014, 9:20am

A former Fox Television morning producer claims she lost her job after she developed cancer and was forced to take time off work.

Margaret Cordes filed a lawsuit July 29 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas Houston Division against Fox Television Stations and KRIV Fox 26.

In her complaint, Cordes claims she was hired in September 2009 as morning executive producer for the Fox 26 morning news. She exceled at her position, receiving numerous positive reviews about her job performance, according to the complaint.

In 2010, Cordes was forced to take a medical leave of absence because she was forced to undergo surgery to treat her cancer, the suit states. After she returned to work, she began to be harassed and abused by her fellow employees and subjected to a hostile work environment, the complaint says.

Cordes complained to human resources about the way she was being treated. After her complaints, however, things continued to get worse, she says.

In February 2012, Cordes decided to apply for the assistant news director position. She claims she was never granted an interview, even though she was qualified for the position and even more qualified than the person who actually obtained the job.

There was not legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for not selecting Cordes for the position, much less not even interviewing Cordes for the position, the suit states.

By October 2012, Cordes began to experience significant physical reactions to the stress of her job, including insomnia, nausea, diarrhea and pressure in her chest, the complaint says. She requested that she be allowed to work on a month-to-month basis when her contract expired, but was denied her request and told corporate insisted on a six-month extension, she claims. She was told she needed to either sign the six-month contract or resign if she failed to do so, according to the complaint.

Continuing stress landed Cordes in the hospital Nov. 14, 2012, where she was diagnosed with extremely elevated blood pressure, the suit states. After a two-day stay at the hospital, Cordes’s doctor recommended she stay off work for a few weeks to see how medication would affect her condition, the complaint says. She was placed on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but her health did not improve, she says.

The plaintiff’s doctor believed her condition was negatively impacted by the large amount of text messages and communications she was receiving from the station during the time the plaintiff was to have been off work focusing on recovery, the suit states.

Adding to Cordes’s stress, while she was on FMLA, she failed to receive pay for three days, despite the fact she had worked weekends, which should have offset the other missed work days, the complaint says.

On March 11, 2013, Cordes returned to work and met with company executives, who later told her she would be placed on paid leave for the remainder of the week until they could decide what to do with her, she says. Later, she learned that her employment with the station had ended, according to the complaint.

Since then, she has not been allowed to return to the station to collect her personal belongings, the suit states.

Cordes alleges disability discrimination, wrongful interference with employment benefits rights and retaliation against the defendants. She also says the defendants violated the Family Medical Leave Act.

Cordes seeks actual and liquidated damages, plus reinstatement, compensatory and punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney’s fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

She is being represented by attorneys Delana Cline and Nasim Ahmad of Cline Ahmad in The Woodlands.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas Houston Division case number 4:14-cv-02193

This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas Houston Division. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note that a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt, and it represents only one side of the story.

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