South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Termination for Filing Workers' Compensation Claim Creates Wrongful Discharge Action
Description The Nebraska high court held that a public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine is clearly created by the workers’ compensation act, which prohibits firing a worker for filing a claim under that act.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Wrongful Discharge; Retaliation; Workers’ Compensation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts While Jackson was working for a newspaper publisher she injured her wrist. She sought medical treatment and was unable to perform some of her duties. Two months later, her supervisor began to criticize her performance. Jackson’s physical therapist contacted her supervisor to recommend that she not perform repetitive duties. A month later it was finally discovered that she had actually broken her wrist. Because of the delay in treating the break, major surgery was required. Jackson was fired. She sued, contending she was fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim. The trial court dismissed the suit; Jackson appealed to the Nebraska high court.
Decision

Reversed. An action for retaliatory discharge is allowed when an employee has been discharged for filing a workers’ compensation claim. There is a clear public policy mandate that creates an exception to the at-will employment doctrine. Courts are to give the workers’ compensation act a liberal construction to carry out justly the spirit of the act.

Citation Jackson v. Morris Communications Corp., 657 N.W.2d 634 (Sup. Ct., Neb., 2003)

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