Retaliatory Discharge

January 30, 2023

By Thomas McCutcheon

The only time a worker in Alabama is protected legally from being fired under state law is when they are terminated in retaliation for making a claim for worker’s compensation. The federal protections of race, creed, color, age, etc., still exist.

Here’s the catch. If an injured worker files for unemployment, the employer has the right to challenge the payment of benefits. There will be a hearing, usually over the phone. These hearings take place quite soon after separation from employment.

The employer will have participated in these hearings in the past and will often have a lawyer and witnesses for the hearing. The injured and newly discharged worker will not.

The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that this hearing is the equivalent of a full-blown trial, and if the employee seeking unemployment loses, they are barred from bringing a retaliatory discharge case.

If you have had an on-the-job injury and you believe you were terminated because of your on-the-job injury, do not apply for your unemployment benefits without consulting an attorney. Even though your employer may have a pattern and practice of retaliatory discharge, if you lose your unemployment hearing you cannot go back and fix it.

Firing an employee who was hurt on the job is morally and legally wrong. It not only hurts the injured worker, but also prevents other workers who are hurt on the job in the future. These (as yet uninjured) workers know if they get hurt and report an injury, they will lose their job. If you are hurt on the job and your environment changes, hostility increases, your duties change, etc., make notes of names and dates and what happened and give these notes to your attorney.

Buckle up, drive safely, and as always, your referrals are appreciated!


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