Retaliatory Discharge Violation Upheld

Claimant worked for Employer and sustained a back injury while in the course and scope of her employment.  At the time of the injury, Claimant did not believe the injury was significant and therefore did not report it.  Later that evening, however, her pain became more severe, and she reported the injury to Employer.  Employer terminated Claimant for willfully violating two company policies: (1) wearing a back brace; and (2) reporting her injury.  Claimant filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, which claim was eventually settled.  She subsequently filed a lawsuit for retaliatory discharge.  The trial court determined that circumstantial evidence at trial was sufficient to prove that the real reason for Claimant’s discharge was that she was going to assert a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, and Employer appealed.

On appeal, the appellate court found that the basis for Claimant’s discharge arose only upon the work-related injury, as Employer maintained that had Claimant reported her injury, she would not have been fired.  Therefore, had she not been injured on the job, she would not have been terminated.  Because the basis for Claimant’s termination was her injury, which was also the basis for her workers’ compensation claim, the court detected retaliatory motive for Claimant’s termination.  The appellate court therefore affirmed the trial court’s finding, reasoning that Employer’s policy does not allow an employee to exercise their rights for workers’ compensation benefits without fear of termination.

Lee v. Future Expectations Community Care Services, LLC, No. 49,478-CA, 2014 WL 6464591 (La.App.2d Cir. 11/19/14)