How Missouri Supreme Court Ruling Affects Injured Workers
Missouri Workers’ Compensation Attorneys and Missouri business owners were on the edge of their seats on Tuesday while they awaited the Missouri Supreme Court ruling on John Templemire v. W&M Welding Inc. The court ruled that a worker now only needs to prove that an injury claim was a “contributing factor” in their termination when alleging retaliatory discharge.
Templemire v. Welding
John Templemire had been a general laborer for W&M Welding. His job typically consisted of painting, driving trucks, and washing equipment pieces. Templemire was injured in January of 2006 when a metal beam fell onto him; crushing his left foot. He was immediately taken to the emergency room to be treated for his injury. He filed a workers’ compensation claim and received benefits.
Eventually, Templemire’s doctor allowed him to return to work, but required that he follow certain safety precautions so as not to aggravate his foot. One of these restrictions included taking a fifteen minute break for every hour of standing—during which he should elevate his foot.
One day, Templemire was assigned to clean a railing. Another employee had not finished preparing the railing to be cleaned, and Templemire took a 15-minute break. Later, the owner of W&M Welding, Gary McMullin saw that the railing had not been cleaned, so he yelled at Templemire—firing him on the spot.
Templemire felt that he was being discriminated against because he filed the work comp claim. He contacted an insurance adjuster who then contacted McMullin. When the insurance adjuster reminded McMullin that Templemire was required to take 15-minute breaks for every hour of labor, McMullin said that he felt Templemire was “milking his injury.”
The case was taken to court and both sides were ultimately arguing about whether McMullin fired Templemire because of the work comp claim, or for insubordination. Remember, they were deciding if the injury was the only reason McMullin fired Templemire.
Exclusive Cause of Termination or Contributing Factor?
The jury ruled in favor of W&M Welding, meaning that, even if the work comp claim contributed to Templemire’s termination, it wasn’t the exclusive factor.
Templemire appealed. He felt that jurors should have been deciding whether or not the worker’s compensation claim contributed to McMullin’s decision—not whether or not it was the only reason.
The Missouri Supreme Court decided that the jury should have been considering the work comp claim as a “contributing factor” of his termination. Therefore, a new trial will decide whether or not the injury claim contributed to McMullin’s decision to fire Templemire.
This decision overturned 2 other cases that appeared in the last 30 years—which were also deciding whether or not a worker’s compensation claim was an “exclusive cause” of termination.
What This Means for YOU
This is good news for Missouri employees. This is especially good news for Missouri employees who were injured on the job.
At our personal injury law firm, we hear about people who are afraid to file a claim because their employer might start looking for a reason to fire them. Once they were terminated, the employer would be able to stop paying any owed benefits. While we encouraged injured workers to pursue their workers’ compensation rights, it was hard to deny the ease at which employers could get away with discrimination.
For the last 30 years, all employers had to do was argue that there were other reasons behind discharging an employee who had filed a work comp claim. The Missouri Supreme Court has put an end to this discrimination and has made it easier for wrongfully terminated employees to prove their case.
If you have been fired by an employer who was hiding behind this “exclusive cause” precedent, contact a St. Louis work comp attorney at Schultz & Myers. We are dedicated to holding businesses accountable when their employees are injured on the job.