This blog article is the second in a four-part series dealing with how Missouri workers’ compensation law handles employers who fire an employee in retaliation for them filing a workers’ compensation claim. A prior blog post summarized how Missouri law dealt with this issue before 2014. Here, we’ll examine the Missouri Supreme Court case that changed the lay of the land. Future blog posts will investigate the legislative bill introduced to overturn the court case, and how things will stand, once the bill becomes law.
Required Connection Between Workers’ Compensation Claim and Discharge
Missouri Revised Statute 287.780 is the law that prohibits employers from firing or discriminating against an employee for exercising their rights under Missouri’s workers’ compensation laws. Importantly, though, it does not specify how closely connected those two events have to be, leaving open the question of whether the discharge has to be solely because of the workers’ compensation claim, or whether an employer is in the wrong even if the claim is one of many factors in the discharge.
Before 2014, two cases determined that there had to be “an exclusive causal relationship” between the workers’ compensation claim and the firing: If there was any other reason for the employee’s discharge, then the employer could take that step.
2014 Case Changes Everything
In January, 2006, John Templemire had been working at a welding company when he was seriously hurt when a metal beam fell from a forklift and crushed his foot. He filed a workers’ compensation claim and began receiving benefits. Templemire was soon cleared to work, but his doctor put numerous restrictions, at one point demanding that Templemire take breaks from standing every hour.
In November, Templemire’s boss fired him on the spot, allegedly for not cleaning and painting a railing. However, when Templemire sued him and the welding company for wrongful discharge in violation of the workers’ compensation laws, there was plenty of evidence suggesting that Templemire’s workplace injury was the main reason. Nevertheless, the trial court ruled for the boss because there was not an exclusive causal relationship between the workers’ compensation claim and the discharge – Templemire had been fired for not painting the railing.
The case went to the Missouri Supreme Court. Once there, Templemire v. W & M Welding, Inc., overruled the trial court and threw away years of its own opinions on the topic by deciding the workers’ compensation claim only had to be a “contributing factor” in a subsequent discharge. This allowed a fired employee to sue their employer under M.R.S. 287.780 in far more circumstances than before, providing far more protection for workers against a wrongful discharge or discrimination after getting hurt while on the job.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
Templemire was a landmark decision in which the Missouri Supreme Court stepped up for workers’ rights in our state. However, the victory would not be long lived, as we’ll show in our next workers’ compensation blog.
The workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys at the Smith Law Office represent injured workers in court in St. Joseph, Kansas City, and the rest of western Missouri. Contact us online or call our law office at (816) 875-9373 for the legal help you need if you’ve been hurt while on the job.