Case name: Buzinski v. American Airlines, Inc., No. 09-2680 (7th Cir. 06/10/10, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an employee failed to prove he was discharged in retaliation of his workers' compensation claim. Rather, the employer had a valid basis for terminating his employment.
What it means: When an employer has a valid reason for terminating an employee who has filed a workers' compensation claim, the discharge is not in retaliation.
Summary: An aircraft fueler injured his arm and shoulder at work and reported the injury to his supervisor. The supervisor called the fueler's home twice to schedule a board of inquiry hearing to determine the injury's cause. The fueler told the supervisor he could not attend a hearing because his doctor restricted him from driving or taking public transportation. In a subsequent call, the supervisor was told that the fueler was out picking up his son, so the supervisor suspected the fueler "was lying about not being able to attend the hearing." The company investigated and established that the fueler was driving his car. At a meeting, the fueler admitted that he drove and could have taken public transportation. As a result, the employer terminated the fueler. The fueler filed a workers' compensation claim and sued the company for retaliatory discharge. The 7th Circuit held that the company had a valid reason for terminating the fueler.
The fueler argued that he was fired for exercising his right to make a workers' compensation claim. The court stated that the fueler had to "show he was discharged in retaliation for his activities in violation of a clear mandate of public policy" and firing an employee for exercising workers' compensation rights are a violation of Illinois public policy. The fueler had to prove: 1) he was the company's employee; 2) he exercised a right under the WCA; and 3) his discharge was causally connected to his filing of a workers' compensation claim. The company's policy stated that dishonesty was a ground for dismissal. The fueler was unable to show that his discharge was caused by the filing of his workers' compensation claim because he was dishonest to his supervisor about his ability to drive or take public transportation.
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August 30, 2010
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