Willing and Able Doctrine

The "willing-and-able" doctrine also is relevant to a discharged employee's claim for damages. Although 25-5-11.1 makes no specific reference to damages, this Court has determined that under that statute damages can be awarded in accordance with the general law of torts. See Caraway v. Franklin Ferguson Mfg. Co., 507 So. 2d 925 (Ala. 1987). An employee who is discharged solely for filing a workers' compensation claim, but who is either unwilling 10 or unable to return to work, cannot recover damages for lost wages. However, that employee would be able to recover damages for any loss or harm, other than lost wages, that arose before he became unwilling or unable to work, such as lost benefits and/or mental anguish. See Motion Industries, Inc. v. Pate, 678 So. 2d 724 (Ala. 1996) (holding that an employee discharged in violation of 25-5-11.1 can recover mental-anguish damages if the claim for such damages is supported by the record). An employee also may be able to recover punitive damages. See Continental Eagle Corp. v. Mokrzycki, 611 So. 2d 313 (Ala. 1992). Of course, an employee who can prove that he or she was willing and able to work, but nevertheless was discharged for seeking workers' compensation benefits, may recover the wages lost as a result of the retaliatory discharge.