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Use workers’ compensation policy checklist to avoid retaliation lawsuits

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in Compensation and Benefits,Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources

Texas, like many states, makes it illegal to retaliate against employees who file workers’ compensation claims. To avoid such a lawsuit, make sure managers and supervisors treat injured workers fairly by:

  • Not commenting in a negative manner on a claim or an injury. Especially do not insinuate that an employee is faking or exaggerating an injury.
  • Applying all company policies equally to injured and other employees.
  • Making sure any post-injury discipline is unrelated to the workers’ comp claim by comparing the type and degree of discipline levied against other employees for the same or similar transgressions.

Recent case: Blaise Nzeda, a black male from Cameroon, was hurt while working for Shell Oil. He filed a workers’ comp claim. He was fired shortly thereafter for allegedly misusing a company-issued cell phone.

Nzeda sued under the Texas Labor Code, claiming his discharge was retaliation. Nzeda said Shell cited his cell phone usage as an excuse for getting rid of him because he had filed the workers’ comp claim.

Shell shot back with proof that it applied the phone-use standards to all employees. Plus, there was no evidence that anyone at Shell criticized Nzeda because he was injured on the job, nor did the company use his workers’ comp claim as a factor in the discharge.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case. (Nzeda v. Shell Oil Company, No. 06-20718, 5th Cir., 2007) 

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