Good news for employers: Workers’ comp retaliation isn’t a federal case — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Good news for employers: Workers’ comp retaliation isn’t a federal case

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in Employee Benefits Program,Employment Law,Human Resources

Whenever a case moves from state court into the federal court system, costs go up and delays become frequent because dockets are so crowded. That’s one reason a recent decision by a federal court to send a case back to the North Carolina court system is good news.

The case involved a workers’ compensation retaliation claim, and judges with expertise in workers’ compensation are better suited to deal with the allegations.

Recent case: James Lunsford worked for Cemex when he was injured at work. Six days after he applied for workers’ compensation benefits, the company terminated him.

Lunsford sued, claiming that he had been fired in retaliation for applying for workers’ comp.

The case seemed destined for federal court until a U.S. District Court judge sent it to state court. He noted that federal procedural rules say that cases arising out of workers’ compensation laws may not be heard in federal court. Then the judge concluded that a claim of retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation falls into that category, even if it doesn’t directly involve the underlying workers’ comp injury. (Lunsford v. Cemex, No. 1:10-CV-143, MD NC, 2010)

Final note: If you plan to terminate an employee who has been injured on the job, make sure all your ducks are in order. Document the situation carefully and be prepared to show you would have fired the employee even if he hadn’t had an on-the-job injury and filed a claim.

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