At-Will Employment – Retaliation – Wrongful Termination
Unfortunately, employers and their insurance provider can be opposed to providing workers’ compensation benefits, and frequently may make the process difficult. If employers in Council Bluffs, or anywhere in Iowa, terminate a workers’ compensation claimant the law in Iowa provides recourse for the employee.
In Iowa, the employee and employer relationship is based on at-will employment. In general, this means an employer can fire an employee for any reason, or no reason at all, during the course employment. While at-will employment is an important foundation in Iowa’s employment law, there are exceptions to the general rule.
One important exception to the rule is an employer is prohibited from terminating an employee because he or she seeks workers’ compensation benefits. Iowa’s Supreme Court decided in 1988 that it was against public policy to terminate an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. The remedy is a legal cause of action called wrongful termination.
Retaliation Is More Than Termination
There are many ways an employer might retaliate against an employee. Termination is the most obvious, but retaliation can come in many forms, including pay reduction, change of duties or work responsibilities, other than accommodations for a workplace injury, unwarranted disciplinary actions, or demotion. All of these actions can be evidence that the employer is taking action to try to force the employee to quit or resign. This is known in Iowa as constructive termination.
Employee Rights and Evidence of Retaliation
As stated in the previous paragraph, there are many methods for an employer to make life difficult for a workers’ compensation claimant other than a clear-cut firing. To successfully bring a claim for wrongful termination, whether actual or constructive, an employee must provide sufficient evidence to establish several things.
First, he or she qualified for workers’ compensation benefits. This would mean sufficient evidence that the injury occurred and was work-related. Second, that a workers’ compensation claim was made in a timely manner and in good faith. Third, the employee must show evidence of negative impact or repercussions at the workplace after having made the claim. Fourth, is that negative repercussions were incurred by the employee in response to the workers’ compensation claim. Damages for wrongful termination are closely linked to whether the terminated employee is able to secure subsequent employment, paygrade loss at the subsequent employment job, and duration of time the employee lost wages during the interim while trying to secure new work.
Assistance from a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Building a wrongful termination case against an employer is an uphill battle for many employees. Even if it seems clear that there were obvious negative repercussions following a workers’ compensation claim, an employer has more financial resources and experience handling these cases. Engaging a workers’ compensation lawyer can level the playing field for employees, and in particular, may help deter wrongful termination in the first place.
At Telpner Peterson Law Firm in Council Bluffs, Walter Thomas has over 30 years of experience representing individuals in workers’ compensation claims. He can provide knowledgeable advice and representation for your claim.
Call our office today at 712-309-3738.