UNEMPLOYMENT HEARING AFFECTS AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE IN RETALIATORY DISCHARGE CASE
Ex parte Gadsden Country Club:
On January 16, 2009, the Alabama Supreme Court released this opinion wherein it denied the employers’ petition for a writ of mandamus. Specifically, the employee sued for retaliatory discharge pursuant to§ 25-5-11.1, Ala. Code 1975. As a defense, the employer asserted that it fired the employee for leaving work after the accident that resulted in his on-the-job injury without first seeking medical attention, in violation of both his supervisor's instructions and GCC policy. The employee successfully convinced the trial court to strike this defense because the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations had already considered and rejected the defense at an administrative hearing concerning the employee’s unemployment claim. The Alabama Supreme Court denied the employer’s petition because it was determined that an post trial appeal rather than a petition for mandamus relief was the proper recourse.
As a practice pointer, it is important to take unemployment hearings seriously. The administrative law judge’s findings could determine whether you succeed or fail in a subsequent retaliatory discharge action.