On March 1, the Alabama Supreme Court issued its opinion regarding the largest retaliatory discharge jury verdict ever recorded in the state.
Notable facts from the underlying case are as follows:
The employee was allowed to claim lost future earnings even though he was earning more with a new employer at the time of trial. This was because he was able to demonstrate that his higher earnings were due to his working longer hours (936 more per year) as opposed to his earning equal or higher wages.
At the close of the evidence, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in the employee’s favor in the amount of $1,259,451.52 (comprising $314,862.88 in compensatory damages and $944,588.64 in punitive damages).
On appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the judgment.
My 2 cents
Employees are certainly not insulated from termination simply because they have filed a workers’ compensation claim. However, employers should proceed with a high degree of caution when considering the termination of a claimant.
At a bare minimum, all applicable handbooks/policies should be thoroughly reviewed, and an attorney who is well versed in such matters should be consulted.
Mike Fish is an attorney with Fish Nelson & Holden LLC, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. This entry is republished, with permission, from the firm's Alabama Workers' Comp Blawg.
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