In January of 2013 the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky heard a case that involved a Kentucky worker’s compensation retaliation claim. (See Vaughan v. Berry Plastics Corp., 2013 WL 230825 (W.D. Ky. 2013)). The plaintiff in this case injured himself on the job on July 10, 2010. Plaintiff’s job in this Kentucky worker’s compensation retaliation case was to cut and remove rubber mass weighting around 50 pounds each. He had worked at this job for over 25 years. Plaintiff hurt himself while working. He felt a pain in his groin. But, plaintiff having done this job for so long thought it was just a usual ache and pain that he gets all the time on the job. Plaintiff had told his co-worker of his pain, but they both kept on working. Then four days later plaintiff went to his personal physician who told him it was more serious. It was an inguinal hernia that needed surgery.
So, on the 14th plaintiff completed and signed an accident report stating he was injured on July 10th. After plaintiff turned in his accident report he was suspended for not timely reporting the injury. Shortly thereafter plaintiff was terminated because he failed to timely report his injury in violation of a Critical Safety Behavior guideline.
Plaintiff hired a Kentucky worker’s compensation retaliation lawyer and filed his Kentucky lawsuit claiming retaliation under KRS sections 342.197 and 344.280 which has to do with worker’s compensation. KRS 342.197 states “no employee shall be harassed, coerced, discharged, or discriminated against in any manner whatsoever for filing and pursuing a lawful claim under this chapter.” (cites omitted). To state a claim of worker’s compensation retaliation, plaintiff must show 1) he engaged in a protected activity, 2) the employer knew that the plaintiff had done so, 3) adverse employment action was taken, and 4) there was a casual connection between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. (cites omitted).
In this Kentucky worker’s compensation retaliation case, the plaintiff had notified the plant nurse that he was injured. He presented a doctor’s note indicating the hernia which needed surgery. The Plant Safety Director was then informed and he filed out the report shortly thereafter. Accordingly, the defendant cannot say that it did not have notice that plaintiff might have wanted to take worker’s compensation time off. Further, there is a causal connection in this Kentucky case in that the right after he reported the injury he was suspended and five days later terminated. There was a very close temporal relationship between the protected activity and the adverse action.
Now, the defendant did try to argue that it had a legitimate business reason for firing the plaintiff in that he did not report the injury in a timely manner and thus violated the company’s policy. But, the court did not agree. The plaintiff in this Kentucky worker’s compensation retaliation case did testify that he hurt himself on one day but did not think it was an injury different from other aches and pains he normally felt. He did not know he was injured until he went to the doctor and then immediately filled out the form.
The wrongful termination claim and the retaliation claim in violation of KRS 344.280 was dismissed. The Kentucky law does not support a wrongful termination claim in violation of KRS Chapter 344 for individuals who do not fall into a protected class. Id. But, the Court denied the motion to dismiss on the other claim and so the plaintiff’s case was allowed to continue.
If you have been the subject of a Kentucky Worker’s Compensation Retaliation case, please call and speak to a Kentucky Worker’s Compensation Retaliation lawyer at the Law Offices of Andrew Alitowski, P.A. at 888-ASK-ANDREW (888-275-2637) or contact us. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you are injured…Ask Andrew!!!