NEW BILL (SB 381) AFFECTING COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL DEFENSE IN RETALIATORY DISCHARGE CASES INTRODUCED IN 2009 SESSION OF ALABAMA LEGISLATURE
One of the easiest ways for an employer to defeat a retaliatory discharge claim is by asserting the defense of collateral estoppel. Specifically, if the employee files for unemployment benefits and the administrative law judge (ALJ) rules that the termination was for any reason other than maintaining or instituting an action to recover workers’ compensation benefits, the issue cannot be relitigated in the retaliatory discharge lawsuit. In other words, whatever the ALJ decides on the issue is controlling in the retaliatory discharge case. This may change if SB 381 is passed. This is a bill that was introduced by Sen. Quinton Ross (D) of Montgomery. If passed, this bill would limit the preclusive effect of a finding of fact, conclusion of law, judgment, or final order made under the unemployment compensation statutes. Further, the bill would preclude an employer from using an employee's previous statements and findings in court in certain cases. SB 381 is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee and could be considered as early as this week. Remember, you can contact your House and Senate members in Montgomery by calling the House operator at (334) 242-7600 or the Senate operator at (334) 242-7800, or writing to them via the State House Office Building, Montgomery, Alabama 36130. You can also visit the Legislature's official web site at: http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/ACASLogin.asp.