Missouri Supreme Court decision extends legal protections for injured workers

gavel-3-1409593-m.jpgThis week, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned 30 years of precedent in a ruling that strengthens legal protection for workers who are fired after suffering on-the-job injuries.

It has always been illegal for Missouri employers to retaliate against employees who file workers' compensation claims. Section 287.780 of Missouri Workers' Compensation Law states: "No employer or agent shall discharge or in any way discriminate against any employee for exercising any of his rights under this chapter." The law also stipulates that any worker who has been either fired or retaliated against in any way has grounds for a lawsuit against his employer. In 1984, the Supreme Court adopted an "exclusive-cause standard," meaning employees had to prove that filing a workers' comp claim was the sole reason for their dismissal in order to take legal action against an employer.

Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that employees "no longer have to prove that workers' compensation claims [are] the exclusive cause for their dismissal in order to win lawsuits alleging retaliation. Instead...employees must show only that workers' compensation claims were a contributing factor in the subsequent dismissal from their job." (emphasis added)

Sadly, some Missouri employees are reluctant to file a workers' comp claim for this very reason: they fear retaliation from their employers. The Court's ruling works to protect the interests of injured workers who find themselves in this situation. "Discrimination against an employee for exercising his or her rights under the workers' compensation law is just as illegal, insidious and reprehensible as discrimination under the [Missouri Human Rights Act]," wrote Judge George Draper II.

Other forms of employer retaliation

In addition to termination, employer or manager retaliation may show up in any of the following types of discrimination or harassment:

• Unwarranted poor performance review
• Scheduling issues
• Isolation or intimidation
• Demotion, reassignment, reclassification or transfer
• Threatened adverse wage action
• Interference with or dispute of a legitimate workers' compensation claim
• Unreasonable increase or decrease in job duties
• Unjustified disciplinary action