New Jersey Court Discusses Termination Following Workers’ Compensation Claims

In many instances, when an employee suffers an injury at work, the employer may not want to pay the employee any workers’ compensation benefits. As such, in an attempt to enact revenge or to prevent the employee from filing a claim for benefits, the employer may terminate the employee’s position. Although New Jersey is an at-will employment state, under certain circumstances, it is unlawful for a person to be fired, such as when it is done in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you sustained injuries in a work accident and you were subsequently fired, it is in your best interest to speak to a knowledgeable New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney to evaluate your options.

The Plaintiff’s Injury and Termination

It is alleged that the plaintiff worked for the defendant as a retail sales consultant. In 2015, when the plaintiff was opening the store he worked in, he fell and injured his back, right shoulder and hand. He filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits and the defendant indicated it intended to contest the claim. However, the plaintiff’s petition for benefits was granted, and he was on medical leave for approximately nine months.

Reportedly, while the plaintiff was on leave, it was determined that he engaged in a personal purchase that was improper under company policy. When the employee returned from leave, he was terminated. He then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging in part that the defendant violated the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) by firing the plaintiff in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. After discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.

Proving a Claim of Retaliatory Termination in Violation of New Jersey Law   

Under the Act, it is unlawful for an employer to terminate or discriminate against an employee for claiming or attempting to claim workers’ compensation benefits. To establish a prima facie claim for retaliatory termination, the employee must show that he attempted to make or made a workers’ compensation claim and that he was either discriminated against or fired in retaliation for making a claim. Thus, in analyzing a plaintiff’s allegations, the court will look for a causal connection between the employee’s termination and the filing of the claim.

While the timing of the filing of the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim in relation to the termination is an important factor in establishing causation, timing alone is insufficient to demonstrate retaliation. In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to support his claim. Specifically, he filed his claim in December 2015 and was not terminated until ten months later, after two investigations into his inappropriate conduct were conducted. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.

Speak to a Proficient New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Attorney

When an employee is terminated after being hurt at work, it can cause additional emotional and financial distress. If you were fired after being hurt at work, you might be able to file claims against your employer for damages and should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. At The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, our proficient New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys are skilled at helping injured employees protect their interests, and we will advocate aggressively on your behalf.  You can contact us at 800-999-0897 or via our form online to set up a conference.

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