Davis v. Dillmeier Enterprises, Inc

In Davis v. Dillmeier Enterprises, Inc., 330 Ark. 545, 956 S.W.2d 155 (Ark. 1997), Davis sustained bilateral carpal syndrome resulting from her employment for which she was compensated under Arkansas' workers' compensation laws. 956 S.W.2d at 156. She was assigned a rating of five percent permanent physical impairment in each upper extremity. Having obtained a release from further treatment, Davis reported to work and was immediately terminated from employment by her employer. She thereupon brought an action against her former employer for discrimination based upon a physical disability, in violation of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act for which she claimed damages in the form of lost wages, mental anguish, and loss of dignity. She also asked for punitive damages. The trial court dismissed the complaint "reasoning that it was the General Assembly's intent that the remedies provided under the Workers' Compensation Act were to be exclusive. " Id. at 157. Distinguishing the injury sustained by Davis by her termination from that caused by her compensable physical injury, the Supreme Court of Arkansas reversed the trial court's dismissal of Davis' complaint and remanded the case to allow Davis to proceed with her termination claim under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act. The Court reasoned as follows: There is no remedy under the Workers' Compensation Act for an employee who is terminated from his or her job on the basis of a disability. Thus, the exclusive-remedy provision of the Act does not preclude Appellant from bringing an action under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act based upon Appellee's alleged discrimination in terminating her on the bases of her permanent restrictions and impairments. In this respect, we agree with the reasoning espoused by the Washington Supreme Court in Reese v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 107 Wn. 2d 563, 731 P.2d 497 (Wash.1987), overruled on other grounds by Phillips v. City of Seattle, 111 Wn. 2d 903, 766 P.2d 1099 (Wash. 1989) that it matters not how the disability came about; rather, the focus should be upon the subsequent deliberate action by the employer in terminating the employee based upon a disability. Additionally, we are persuaded that the rights and remedies provided by both Acts are considerably different and serve to fulfill different purposes. Appellant has alleged two separate injuries--one being a work-related physical injury, for which she has received workers' compensation benefits, and one being a subsequent nonphysical injury arising from Appellee's action in terminating her based upon her physical disability. The first injury is exclusively cognizable under the Workers' Compensation Act, while the subsequent injury is of the type envisioned by the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993. (Id. at 160-61.)