Causal Link Between Firing and Filing a Workers Comp Claim
Circumstantial evidence sufficient to establish a causal link between termination and filing a compensation claim includes:
(1) knowledge of the compensation claim by those making the decision to on termination;
(2) expression of a negative attitude toward the employee's injured condition;
(3) failure to adhere to established company policies;
(4) discriminatory treatment in comparison to similarly situated employees;
(5) evidence that the stated reason for the discharge was false. Continental Coffee Products v. Cazarez, 937 S.W.2d 444, 451 (Tex. 1996).
Not taking an employee's injury seriously and requiring the employee work while injured has also been considered as evidence of a wrongful termination. See Borden, 860 S.W.2d at 523.
An employee may not be fired or discriminated against in any manner because the employee "filed a workers' compensation claim in good faith." TEX. LAB. CODE ANN. 451.001(1) (Vernon 1996).
Notifying an employer of an injury is sufficient to invoke the protection of section 451.001. Borden, Inc. v. Guerra, 860 S.W.2d 515, 521 (Tex. App.--Corpus Christi 1993, writ dism'd by agr.); Duhon v. Bone & Joint Physical Therapy Clinics, 947 S.W.2d 316, 318 (Tex. App.--Beaumont 1997, no writ).
A plaintiff must show a "causal connection between the workers' compensation claim and the alleged wrongful termination." Borden, 860 S.W.2d at 522.
If the claim contributed to the termination, the employee can prevail even if the company had other reasons for terminating the employee. Id.
"Proof of causation may be established either by direct or circumstantial evidence and by the reasonable inferences from such evidence." Id.
Under the Anti-Retaliation Law, a prime facie case of retaliation is established where the plaintiff has met the burden of establishing a causal link between the termination and the filing of a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Texas Dep't of Human Services v. Hinds, 904 S.W.2d 629, 636 (Tex. 1995) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-805, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973)); Hughes Tool Co. v. Richards, 624 S.W.2d 598, 599 (Tex. Civ. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1981, writ ref'd n.r.e.) cert. denied, 456 U.S. 991, 73 L. Ed. 2d 1286, 102 S. Ct. 2272 (1982).
Once this burden had been met, the burden shifts to the employer to rebut the alleged discrimination by showing there was a legitimate reason for the employee's termination. Id.
Although a former employee need not prove that the filing of a worker's compensation claim was the sole cause of termination, we must determine that were it not for the filing of a claim, the employer's decision to terminate would not have occurred. See Continental Coffee Products Co. v. Cazarez, 937 S.W.2d 444, 450-51 (Tex. 1996); Urquidi v. Phelps Dodge Refining Corp., 973 S.W.2d 400, 403 (Tex. App.-El Paso 1998, no pet.).