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Prior workers’ comp case? Make sure discharge reasons are plausible

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Illinois law protects employees against retaliation for filing workers’ compensation claims. To help your organization avoid needless litigation, make sure any discipline or discharge that takes place after an employee files for workers’ comp is plausible. Otherwise, you risk a retaliation lawsuit.

Advice: Insist that managers and supervisors explain exactly why they are disciplining the employee. Then document the events. Courts won’t meddle with an employer’s honestly held belief that an employee deserved discipline if the employer can document how it reached the decision.

Recent case: Jarvis Peterson worked for Crate and Barrel as a corporate driver, chauffeuring the CEO and other high-level executives. Then the company fired him for insubordination. Peterson had filed the second of two workers’ compensation claims two months before the discharge.

Crate and Barrel came to court armed with employment records that showed it terminated Peterson for disparaging the CEO in front of several people, including the CEO himself.
The court concluded that as long as the company honestly believed Peterson had been insubordinate, it had proven a legitimate reason for its actions. The court dismissed the case. (Peterson v. Euromark Designs, dba Crate and Barrel, No. 06-4363, 7th Cir., 2007)

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