This 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
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