Often, employees who report a workplace injury are viewed by their employers as a “problem” and they are sometimes fired for filing a worker’s compensation claim. Texas law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against their employees for filing a worker’s compensation claim. Under Chapter 451 of the Texas Labor Code, employers are prohibited from discriminating (or retaliating) against an employee who has:
- made a claim for worker compensation in good faith;
- hired a lawyer to represent the employee in a claim;
- instituted or caused to be instituted an administrative proceeding regarding a workers’ compensation claim; and
- testified or is about to testify in an administrative proceeding regarding a claim for workers’ compensation.
This law extends protections to workers who have reported a workplace injury to their employer, as long as the employer is a worker’s compensation subscriber. Thus, under Chapter 451, it is not a defense for an employer who carries worker’s compensation insurance to claim that it is not liable for retaliation because a worker’s compensation claim was never filed. Workers who are wrongfully retaliated against by their employer may recover monetary damages, including lost wages and emotional distress damages, as well as punitive damages.
Because it is often difficult to determine an employer’s motivation in terminating an employee that has sought or taken workers’ compensation leave, Texas courts have developed list of factors that are considered in assessing discriminatory or retaliatory intent:
- expression of a negative attitude towards the employee’s injury;
- failure to adhere to established company policies;
- knowledge of the reported injury by those making the termination decision;
- discriminatory treatment in comparison to similarly situated employees; and
- evidence that the stated reason for the discharge was false.
The Texas Labor Code allows employees who prevail on their worker’s compensation retaliation claim to recover actual damages (including past and future lost wages and emotional distress), as well as punitive damages.
If you reported an injury to your employer and were fired shortly after either reporting the injury or returning from injury leave, you should consult with an experienced Texas employment attorney to determine whether you may have a claim for wrongful termination under the Texas labor code or federal employment laws.
About the author: My name is Josh Borsellino. I am an attorney licensed in Texas. My office is in Fort Worth, but I represent clients across Texas. I represent employees on a variety of claims including unpaid overtime and worker’s compensation retaliation. For a free consultation of your legal matter, call me at 817.908.9861 or 432.242.7118 or fill out this online form.