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Fighting employer retaliation in workers’ compensation cases

Discrimination and retaliation are important issues in the field of employment law. Workers who are subjected to adverse treatment on an illegal basis or for exercising their rights under the law do not have to sit back and take it when an employer engages in such behavior. Taking legal action allow one to have one’s rights protected and to receive appropriate compensation.

Take, for instance, the recently filed case of a Pennsylvania dairy worker who sued his former employer on allegations of discrimination and retaliation. The worker had apparently been injured on the job back in 2013 which impaired his ability to lift heavy items. Because of this disability, he was transferred to a different position. In that new position, the employer ultimately failed to accommodate his need to take hourly hydration and bathroom breaks, something the employer was required to under law. The employee was terminated just over six months later on what the employer alleges were false pretexts. Now the former employee is suing for lost wages and benefits, compensatory damages, and other fees and costs. 

Here in Pennsylvania, workers may pursue an employer under common law for compensatory damages based on retaliation connected to a workers’ compensation filing. In order to prove such a case, the worker must be able to prove that the employer took adverse employment action after or at the same time that the employee attempted to exercise his or her rights under workers’ compensation law. A causal link between the two must also be shown.

This latter element involves demonstrating the employer’s retaliatory motivation. Employers, of course, will try to deny that their behavior was motivated by retaliation, but if enough evidence is presented in the right way, courts will make a finding of retaliation. Working with an experienced attorney is important in these cases in order to ensure that strong evidence is presented, and in such a way as to overcome the employer’s alternative explanations for its treatment of the employee.

Source: Littler’s Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Survey, April 2012. 

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