RETALIATORY DISCHARGE FOR EXERCISING RIGHTS UNDER THE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ACT:
You suffer an injury on the job, file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, and coincidentally begin to notice subtle differences in the way your employer treats you. Then, in the guise of a restructuring, you find yourself out of a job. That is a familiar story I have heard time and again from clients with claims based on work related injuries, always followed with the same question: “can my employer do that to me?”
Connecticut has a statute that provides that “no employer...shall discharge, or cause to be discharged, or in any manner discriminate against any employee because the employee has filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits or otherwise exercised the rights afforded to him pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.” Where an injured employee suffers adverse employment action, including termination, as a result of having filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the employee can pursue a civil action or administrative claim against the employer pursuant to C.G.S. Section 31-290a. In order to prevail, the employee must prove intentional discrimination on the part of the employer as a result of the employee having filed a claim for benefits under the Act. Intentional discrimination sufficient to prove the claim, however, can be shown even though other factors motivated the employer’s decision to discharge or take adverse action against the employee, as long as filing the claim was one of the motivating factors. As a result, the employee does not have to prove that filing the claim was the sole, or even principal reason for the adverse employment action, as long as it is shown to have been a determinative influence in the employment decision. Such a conclusion can be proven directly where specific evidence exists, or it can be based on a determination and finding that the stated reasons by the employer are not worthy of belief. Thus, where the employer’s stated reasons for the adverse employment action are not credible, a fact finder is permitted to infer, upon considering all of the relevant circumstances that the filing of the workers’ compensation claim was a motivating factor in the decision, even if it may not have been the only motivating factor.
Where a retaliation claim is proven under the Act, the employee can recover economic and non-economic damages, as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees. If you have been subjected to adverse employment action after having exercised rights under the workers compensation act, you should seek the advice of an attorney familiar with employment retaliation claims to protect your legal rights.