(HOUSTON) — A Texas grandmother of five says she was wrongfully fired from her job because she got cancer. Now, she’s suing for employment discrimination.
Janet Hustus, 53, was working as the Conference Meetings Director for Crowne Plaza Houston in January 2011 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I was devastated. When you hear those words it is very devastating,” Hustus said. “You have cancer, and you don’t know what to do. You have so many emotions.”
She went to her general manager, Jerry Mathers, a few days later to discuss her schedule and surgery dates. Hustus says Mathers assured her the company would work around her schedule and “support her any way possible,” including keeping her job open for her.
“His wife had gone through the same thing a few years prior,” Hustus said. “He was very supportive and told me he’d have his wife call me and talk to me on what to expect.”
Hustus had surgery a few months later and returned to work after eight weeks of recovery. Four days into working, she was fired.
“Jerry called me into his office that Saturday morning and couldn’t look me in the eyes. That’s when I knew something was wrong,” Hustus said. “They had to trim back departments and my department was cut. I was let go.”
But the Texan believes Crowne Plaza Hotel fired her because of insurance, knowing she had more follow-up surgeries required.
“I’ve seen very similar cases,” her attorney, Ellen Sprovach, said. “The minute an employee tells the employer ‘I’m going to have to have surgery’ they’re interestingly laid off.”
Michael Stanley, who’s representing Crowne Plaza, said Tuesday he hasn’t answered the lawsuit because they haven’t been served with the lawsuit, and have only seen a copy of it. Stanley sent ABC News affiliate KTRK in Houston the following statement on Monday:
“My client just received the lawsuit today and will take a serious look at all of the allegations. I understand that Ms. Hustus worked in a sales-related position and was fired for reasons unrelated to any illness or disability.”
“Crowne Plaza has never said that prior to last night,” Sprovach said.
Hustus, who is now cancer-free and has a new job, hopes to collect financial damages for medical bills and mental anguish.
“I just want people to be aware. Don’t always trust the people you think you can trust,” Hustus said. “I don’t have any bad feelings against Jerry or the hotel. That’s not right, and they have to live with it.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Cristina Alesci Seth Fiegerman and Charles Riley, CNN
Sam Turner, Deseret News