Retaliatory Discharge Action In Alabama

Section 25-5-11.1, Ala. Code 1975, prohibits an employer from discharging an employee "solely because the employee has instituted or maintained any action against the employer to recover workers' compensation benefits." In Bleier v. Wellington Sears Co., Ms. 1971121, January 21, 2000 So. 2d, we traced the history of Alabama's retaliatory-discharge statute and the Court of Civil Appeals' conclusion that an employee must prove, as a part of a prima facie case in a retaliatory-discharge action, that he or she was willing and able to return to work. See Consolidated Stores, Inc. v. Gargis, 686 So. 2d 268 (Ala. Civ. App.), cert. denied, 686 So. 2d 278 (Ala. 1996). In Bleier, we overruled Gargis and its progeny, holding as follows: In addition to Gargis, we overruled Gordon v. J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., Ms. 2980095, October 1, 1999 535 So. 2d 268 (Ala. Civ. App. 1999); Chapman v. Boise Cascade Corp., 726 So. 2d 729 (Ala. Civ. App. 1999); Hammock v. Ryder Dedicated Logistics, Inc., 716 So. 2d 215 (Ala. Civ. App. 1998); Alexander v. Pace Indus., Inc., 710 So. 2d 450 (Ala. Civ. App. 1997); Rice v. Bruno's, Inc., 705 So. 2d 486 (Ala. Civ. App. 1997); Watwood v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 699 So. 2d 210 (Ala. Civ. App. 1997); Lambert v. Beverly Enterprises, Inc., 695 So. 2d 44 (Ala. Civ. App. 1997). See Bleier v. Wellington Sears Co., 2000 Ala. "The 'willing-and-able' doctrine does not establish an element of an employee's prima facie case, but ... the question whether an employee is willing and able to return to work is relevant to the defendant's opportunity to establish a defense to a claim alleging retaliatory discharge or to eliminate or reduce the damages recoverable for lost wages."