Alabama Workers' Comp Blawg

  • 09
  • May
  • 2010

RETALIATORY DISCHARGE VERDICT REVERSED

M & J Materials, Inc. v. Isbell:

On May 7, 2010, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released this opinion wherein it reversed the trial court’s decision to deny the employer’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. Specifically, the evidence at trial revealed that the employer’s stated reason for terminating the employee was because he possessed a firearm on the employer’s premises. The judge denied the employer’s motion for judgment as a matter of law and the jury returned a verdict in the amount of $5,000 in compensatory damages and $70,000 in punitive damages. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the judgment because the employee failed to rebut the employer’s showing that the termination was based, in whole or in part, upon the employee’s reported open possession of a firearm. Although the employee offered witness testimony that other employees brought firearms to work and were not disciplined, it could not be shown that the other instances were brought to the attention of management. The employer, however, offered evidence that an employee who reportedly brought a hunting knife on the premises was discharged. Since that particular employee had not filed a workers’ compensation claim, it could not be shown that the rule against weapons on the employer’s premises was applied in a discriminatory manner (i.e. only against workers’ compensation claimants).

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