Boss Sues 60-Year-old Employee While he's Recovering from Cancer - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Boss Sues 60-Year-old Employee While he's Recovering from Cancer

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Like his father and grandfather before him 60-year-old John Coddou knows all there is to know about the plaster business.

In the fall of 2007 Coddou got a job with Morrell Masonry Supply as a plaster salesman.

In 2009 he heard the dreaded "C" word, the one no one wants to hear their doctor say.

"I was diagnosed with cancer, colon cancer," Coddou said. "I had a tumor that had to be removed and ended up doing 9 months of chemo."

The surgery and extensive chemotherapy didn't keep Coddou from working.

But near the end of 2009, Coddou says the chemo made him to sick to get out of bed.

"It was rather hard on me," Coddou said.

Coddou said he missed three consecutive days of work.

Company policy requires employees to call in when they're sick, something Coddou admits he didn't do.

"Mentally I was worn down and physically," Coddou said. "I just did not call."

Coddou got this termination letter in the mail.

It cites three reasons for his firing.

Not completing assigned job duties, three write ups within the last three months and absences.

The seriously ill man knew no job meant no more insurance.

"That was my main concern to have health insurance," Coddou said.

Three months after his firing Coddou got another job in the plaster business.

He remembered signing this confidentiality agreement which the company requires employees to sign if they want to participate in the company's profit sharing program.

By signing Coddou agreed to not work for a competitive business anywhere in the state of Texas for one year.

Coddou says his former boss assured him he would not take him to court over the non-compete agreement.

A claim Morrell strongly denies.

"I took him at his word," Coddou said. "Evidently he changed his mind."

The exact reason Coddou was fired is disputed by the parties, however one thing is clear.

A year after the non-compete ended Morrell sued Coddou for 25 thousand dollars, 100 dollars a day for each day the company claims Coddou breached the agreement.

"I don't have that kind of money," Coddou said.

"When he told me the story I almost couldn't believe it," said Tim Lankau, Coddou's attorney.

Lankau believes the non compete agreement is overbroad and unenforceable because it covered the entire state of Texas.

"I told John it was unenforceable but it was going to cost some money to get that decided by a court and it could cost a lot of money," Lankau said.

Lankau filed a motion for summary judgment calling the non-compete unenforceable for damages and asking the court to dismiss the suit.

"We filed that motion, we won," Lankau said.

But that's not where this story ends.

Morrell Masonry is now appealing the judge's decision.

"Appeals are very expensive," Lankau said. "So now Mr. Coddou has to pay to defend an appeal."

"The way I was raised the old school way right is right and wrong is wrong and what he's doing is not right," Coddou said.

Morrell Masonry Supply declined an on-camera interview and sent us this prepared statement.

in it the company says Coddou's termination had nothing to do with the time he missed due to cancer or treatment.

The company," will not disclose the exact reason for his termination to protect the family's integrity" but said he was terminated for just cause.

As for the non compete contract Morrell says "Mr. Coddou received thousands of dollars from the profit sharing program and had access to company financial records...but did not keep his promise and went to work for Morrell's direct competitor."

In court records Coddou's attorney questions wether the profit sharing program existed at all.

The statement goes on to say throughout Mr. Coddou's illness Morrell was supportive of his needs and provided such things as paid days off and a reduced work load.

If the company wins the appeal the case goes to trial.

That means Coddou will be out even more money, money he'll never see again even if a jury sides with him.

"That is the best case scenario to try a case as a defendant is the other side gets zero and you get to spend a bunch of money in lawyer's fees," Lankau said.

Coddou realizes it may have been cheaper to pay his former boss 25 grand to avoid all the costly litigation.

But right now Coddou is the victor in his battle with cancer, so this survivor said he's ready to battle the boss from hell.

""I think I've been blessed, I think I have a guardian angel," Coddou said. "I think this is something we're going to have to go through but it's going to come out ok."


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