JEFFERSON COUNTY JURY FINDS IN FAVOR OF EMPLOYER IN RETALIATORY DISCHARGE CLAIM
On June 25th, 2009, a Jefferson County jury returned a verdict in favor of the employer in a retaliatory discharge lawsuit. It was uncontested that the plaintiff was terminated after making a workers’ compensation claim. However, it was the employer’s position that the employee was fired for failing to report for available light duty work. Specifically, the plaintiff injured her back at work and began receiving benefits. In the meantime, her doctor put her on modified duty. She subsequently received a letter from her employer informing her that they had implemented a light duty program and that she needed to drive to the company’s headquarters to start light duty. The plaintiff complained that she did not want to drive because it was a long way from her home and she was concerned about back problems while driving. Her physician, however, had not put any limitations on driving distance. As an alternative, the plaintiff asked to perform light duty closer to her home. This request was denied. When the plaintiff did not appear for light duty as directed, the employer sent her a letter terminating her employment for failing to comply with the absenteeism policy.
The plaintiff filed suit against her employer alleging retaliatory discharge. She claimed the light duty program was implemented only after she filed her workers’ compensation claim. The employer denied this allegation citing that their workers’ compensation insurance provider had suggested the light duty policy three or four months prior to its implementation. The jury ultimately sided with the employer.