April 2014 - Missouri Supreme Court Makes Workers' Compensation Retaliation Cases Less Difficult

Thanks to a new decision by the Missouri Supreme Court, injured workers have an easier chance to make a claim for retaliatory discharge after filing a workers' compensation claim. According to the court's ruling in Templemire v. W&M Wedling, Inc., employees need only to prove that the filing of a workers' compensation claim was a "contributing factor" to the employee's discharge, termination, or other discipline. This is a change from the old standard in Missouri by which an employee would have to prove exclusive causal connection when attempting to maintain a claim for workers' compensation retaliatory discharge.
In the Templemire case, the employee had been assigned to light duty work after sustaining a work-related injury. After being assigned to the light duty work, the employee was terminated for stating he needed to take a break to rest his foot. After the employee indicated the employer could consult with his physician regarding the need for the break, the employer indicated the employee was insubordinate. Among other statements and actions, the employer suggested that the employee was milking his injury and that the employee could sue him because he paid premiums and had attorneys to handle such issues. The Missouri Supreme Court decided the prior exclusive causation standard was outdated and the new contributing factor standard is more in line with recent Missouri employment discrimination cases such as those made under the Missouri Human Rights Act.

As a result of this new important decision, there will certainly be increased litigation regarding retaliatory discharge as it relates to the filing of workers' compensation claims in the state of Missouri. Injured employees will want to compare the way he or she is disciplined compared to an employee who is not injured at the time of any such discipline. It is likely that employers will have to be more careful in documenting the reason that injured employees are disciplined. Additionally, insurance companies, especially adjusters, may be subject to inquiries by attorneys who are representing injured workers who believe they have been victims of a retaliatory employment action. If you believe you have been a victim of a retaliatory discharge for filing a workers' compensation claim or for exercising your rights under the Missouri Worker's Compensation Act, please contact our office.

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