What Do You Think: Did Texas Laborer with Gash in Scalp Show Termination Stemmed from Filing Workers’ Compensation Claim?

22 Jan, 2024 Chris Parker

                               

Dilley, TX (WorkersCompensation.com) A company that terminates an employee shortly after the employee files a workers’ compensation claim is always at some risk of being accused of retaliating. If an employee hopes to make out a case, however, he’ll have to show his claim and his termination were causally connected.

As a case involving a laborer for an oil field service company in Texas shows, internal company policies can sometimes be the deciding factor in whether a worker can move forward with his retaliation lawsuit.

On March 23, 2017, the laborer was injured when a tool he was using hit him in the head. The tool cut his scalp, requiring stitches. After the stitches were removed, the laborer complained of pain in his head, neck, and shoulder. His doctor placed him on light duty work.

The laborer then filed a workers’ compensation claim. In the meantime, he did not show up for work from early April to early May, and did not inform the company that he would be absent. On May 2, the laborer signed a separation from employment form, stating that he did not report to work for almost one month.

The laborer sued the company, claiming it retaliated against him because he filed a workers’ compensation claim.

The company’s policy, which it consistently implemented, was to terminate an employee for violating its attendance policy if the worker did not show up for work and did not notify the company of the absence. The  policy contained an exception where the employee had a legitimate emergency.

An employee seeking to establish workers’ compensation retaliation must show that the company discriminated against him because he filed the claim.

Did the laborer link his termination to his workers’ compensation claim?
A. No. The company terminated him based on an internal policy it applied to all employees.
B. Yes. The fact that he was terminated only weeks after he filed a workers’ compensation claim indicated that the two things were causally connected.

If you selected A, you agreed with the court in Frausto v. RC Industries, LLC, No. 13-23-00194-CV (Tex. Ct. App. 01/11/24), which ruled that the company did not retaliate against the employee.

The court pointed out that in Texas, courts have uniformly ruled that when an employee is terminated for violating a reasonable absence-control policy, the termination does not constitute retaliatory discharge.

Here, the company’s written policy and practice was to terminate an employee who, like the laborer, failed to show up for work, didn’t notify the company of the absence, and didn’t provide a legitimate emergency excuse.

Because the laborer in this case did not notify the company of his absences from April 20 until May 2, or provide an emergency excuse, the company established that it was merely uniformly enforcing its absence-control policy when it terminated him.

The court affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the laborer failed to establish a retaliation claim.

 

 

 


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