This blog is the third part of a four-piece look into one of the main issues of workers’ compensation law: The ability of employers to fire employees for making a workers’ comp claim. We’ve already covered how Missouri handled this issue before 2014, and the landmark case that changed the field that year. Here, we’ll examine how the state legislature reacted to strip workers of their new gains. A future post will examine how things will work once this new bill becomes law.
When Is a Discharge Really Retaliation for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Missouri has always taken very seriously the right of an employer to fire an employee, and doesn’t want to limit this right. However, the workers’ compensation law, M.R.S. 287.780, didn’t say exactly when it protected workers who’d filed a workers’ compensation claim from being fired.
For years, courts in Missouri had decided there had to be an “exclusive causal relationship” between the workers’ compensation claim and the firing for it to be a wrongful discharge: Workers in Missouri were only protected if they were fired solely because of their claim.
This all changed in the 2014 case, Templemire v. W & M Welding, Inc., when the Missouri Supreme Court changed the law to better protect workers. Under that case, a discharge was wrongful if a workers’ compensation claim was a “contributing factor” to their discharge.
However, the state legislature didn’t like that ruling, and moved to change the law.
Senate Bill 66 Changes Workers’ Compensation Law
In order to better protect businesses in Missouri, the Missouri Legislature introduced Senate Bill 66, which changed numerous aspects of the state’s workers’ compensation law. Included in these changes was one to M.R.S. 287.780. This amendment added language to this statute, requiring courts to find that the workers’ compensation claim was “the motivating factor” in the employee’s discharge, effectively overruling the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision.
Overturning a court decision by changing the law is something that the state legislature can do. It doesn’t change the outcome of the particular case, but it does alter the law so that the new version of it applies to cases that come up, later on. After all, it is the role of the legislature to enact laws, while it is the role of the courts to interpret them and to apply them to real-life issues.
Senate Bill 66 flew through the Missouri Senate and the House, and was signed by the governor on July 5, 2017. It is set to go into effect on August 28, 2017.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
While the new law dealing with retaliatory firings has not gone into effect, it has already impacted decisions in the workplace. In our next blog post, we’ll go over how this is the case, and what we can expect in the near future.
The personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph fight for injured workers in St. Joseph, Kansas City, and Springfield. Contact us online or call our law office at (816) 875-9373 if you’ve suffered a workplace injury and want legal representation to get the compensation you deserve.