Appellate Court Justifies Employee’s Belief In Wrongful Termination

Recently, the Appellate Division decided the case of Robinson v. Armadillo Automation, Inc. in which the employee had alleged, among other things, that his employer had terminated his employment in retaliation for having sought workers’ compensation benefits. Reversing the trial court’s grant of summary judgment for the employer, the Appellate Division found that the employee had provided sufficient evidence such that a jury could find the employer’s explanation for terminating his employment had been discredited.

Hired at 60 years old, the employee disclosed a lower back condition to his employer which it accommodated by providing him with a stool to perform his job. In April of 2011, the employee suffered pain in his neck, which he reported to his employer. However, the employer refused to allow him to see a doctor because it did not consider the injury to be work-related. The employee nevertheless received medical treatment and obtained a release to return to work, which the employer reluctantly accepted. The employer claimed that when he returned to work his productivity decreased significantly, causing it to question his physical ability to do his job. The employer further claimed that the employee had violated certain company policies and therefore terminated him. The employee denied that his productivity had decreased or that he had violated company policies. Rather, he maintained that his employer had an issue with his use of the stool, believing that he sat too much, and that he was fired in retaliation for his having sought workers’ compensation benefits. The employee subsequently filed suit against his employer.

Reversing the trial court’s grant of summary judgment for the employer, the Appellate Division found that the employee had “met his burden by producing evidence that, if believed, entirely discredits defendants’ proffered reasons for terminating his employment.” As to the retaliation claim, the court found it significant that the employer had refused to send the employee to the doctor and because it did not believe that the injury was work-related. Reversing, the case was remanded for trial.

New Jersey employees may not be retaliated against for seeking workers’ compensation benefits or medical treatment for work-related injuries. If you believe that your employer is retaliating against you for such protected conduct, contact the Law Offices of Damian Christian Shammas, LLC for a consultation.