Case name: Hertz Equipment Rental Corp. v. Barousse, No. 01-10-00949-CV (Tex. Ct. App. 07/28/11).
The Texas Court of Appeals held that an employer retaliated against a director for filing a workers' compensation claim. It upheld the jury's compensatory damages award of $665,000.
What it means: In Texas, an employee who is targeted for a layoff because he filed a workers' comp claim states a claim of retaliation.
Summary: A region sales director sustained serious back injuries when a truck ran into his employer-owned vehicle. He initially paid his medical expenses because he knew the company did not want workers' compensation claims in its records. After trying to work for a few weeks, he filed a workers' compensation claim when he couldn't continue. Shortly after returning from medical leave, the director's supervisor gave him an unsatisfactory annual performance appraisal. Later, the employer told him his position was eliminated and that he was being laid off. The director sued the employer for retaliation. The Texas Court of Appeals held that the employer retaliated against the director for filing his workers' compensation claim. The director was entitled to damages for lost wages and benefits.
The court pointed out that the regional vice president commented with "apparent displeasure" when he learned of the director's workers' compensation claim and was aware of the claim when he made the layoff decision. Also, the performance review and the layoff decision were made within a few months of the date the director filed his claim. The employer's delay in implementing its decision did not erase the significance of its timing, especially since the employer said the workers' compensation claim was the reason for the delay.
Another region sales director for the employer also had his position eliminated at the same time, but he was offered an alternate position. The court said that the only material difference between the director and the other worker was that the director filed a workers' compensation claim.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
September 30, 2011
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