SW Legal studies in Business

Worker Who Falsifies Work Injury Claim May Be Dismissed
Description

Appeals court held that an employee who falsified a claim of an injury suffered on the job could be fired, and he did not have a claim for wrongful dismissal for retaliation in violation of his workers’ compensation rights.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words Wrongful Dismissal; Workers’ Compensation; Retaliation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Napreljac worked for Hammons Hotels doing maintenance work. He received workers’ compensation benefits for neck surgery after he suffered an injury when lifting carpeting. After he returned to work he was put on light duties that did not involve lifting. Some months later he claimed to have suffered a back injury when he fell on stairs near a loading dock at about 8:30 one morning. He restated this to a physician who said he may have a sprain and could return to work with light duties only. The hotel manager reviewed the security video tapes that focused on the stairs, and there was no evidence of Napreljac slipping or falling on the stairs. He was fired and then got a job doing drywall work. He sued, claiming wrongful dismissal in retaliation for exercising his workers’ compensation rights. The district court dismissed his suit. Napreljac appealed.

Decision Affirmed. There is a common law cause of action for an at-will employee who is discharged contrary to public policy. Under Iowa law, to recover damages for workers’ compensation retaliation, an employee must prove that he was discharged in retaliation for engaging in protected activity. When an employee reports an injury, the employer has the right to investigate the matter. Napreljac was not fired for reporting an injury but for falsifying the matter. He had been treated properly under workers’ compensation prior to this matter. Hammons investigated the alleged injury and uncovered sufficient evidence to believe the claim was false, which is grounds for termination.
Citation Napreljac v. John Q. Hammons Hotels, 505 F.3d 800 (8th Cir., 2007)

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