Workers’ Compensation Retaliation in MN
Retaliatory discharge is one type of wrongful termination, as well as a form of workers’ compensation retaliation in Minnesota. An employee can be wrongfully terminated for numerous reasons, from race and sex discrimination to retaliation for exercising his or her rights under federal or state law. Retaliation is the legal term that refers to an employer’s wrongful behavior in response to an employee’s decision to exercise a right.
Retaliatory discharges can happen when an employee files for workers’ compensation in Minnesota and they can also occur any time an employee is terminated for exercising his or her right to file a claim. For example, if an employee faces discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex and is fired because she decides to file a claim, that employee may have a retaliatory discharge case.
Similarly, when an employee informs his or her employer of a workplace injury and plans to seek workers’ compensation benefits, or when the employee actually files a workers’ comp claim, the employer cannot fire that employee in retaliation because of the decision to file for workers’ comp.
In addition, the employer cannot even threaten to retaliate—whether or not an employee actually is terminated, the mere threat of a retaliatory discharge can be enough for an employee to take legal action against the employer.
Retaliatory Discharge Prohibited Under Minnesota Law
Under Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. § 176.82), it is unlawful for an employer to obstruct an employee who is seeking benefits for which she or he may be eligible. More specifically, the statute defines a retaliatory discharge in response to seeking workers’ compensation benefits as follows:
Anyone who terminates an employee for seeking workers’ compensation benefits or who obstructs an employee seeking these benefits is liable for damages incurred by the employee, and for punitive damages. Damages awarded will not be offset by any workers’ compensation benefits to which the employee is entitled.
To clarify the statute, an employee who faces a retaliatory discharge can be eligible for various damages, including:
- Economic damages, which are a type of compensatory damages, to cover diminution in workers’ compensation benefits as a result of the retaliatory discharge, costs, and reasonable attorney fees; and
- Punitive damages, which are designed to punish the wrongdoer, and can be as high as three times the amount of compensatory damages the employee receives.
Employer’s Refusal to Offer Continued Employment is Prohibited Under Minnesota Law
Similar to a retaliatory discharge, an employer’s refusal to continue offering employment to a worker because of her workplace injury or decision to seek workers’ comp benefits is unlawful under Minnesota law. Here is what the statute says:
An employer who, without cause to do so, refuses to provide ongoing employment to its employee when employment is available within the employee’s limitations can be held liable for one year’s wages.
What is the distinction between a retaliatory discharge and a refusal to offer continued employment? Both types of claims are similar since they both involve an action against an employer for obstructing an employee seeking benefits.
The most obvious distinction is that a retaliatory discharge involves an act of the employer actually terminating the employee, while the refusal to offer continued employment involves the employer failing to take any action with regard to the injured worker’s employment. Both may have the same end result: the employee is no longer employed because she or he filed for workers’ compensation benefits.
Depending upon the facts of the case, an employee may be able to file both a retaliatory discharge claim and a claim for refusal to offer continued employment. As the statutory language explains, damages from one of those claims will not affect damages from the other.
Retaliation Can Include the Threat of Discharging an Employee
To be clear, retaliation does not have to involve an actual termination. An employee can continue working for the employer after seeking workers’ compensation benefits but still may be able to file a claim if the employer threatened the employee with termination. In the Minnesota Supreme Court case Schmitz v. U.S. Steel (2014), the court held that an employer can be liable for a threat to discharge, even if there is no adverse action actually taken against the employee with regard to his or her continued employment.
Contact Our Wrongful Termination Lawyers MN
If you faced retaliation because you indicated plans to seek workers’ compensation or applied for workers’ compensation benefits, it is extremely important to speak with a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer about filing a claim. The wrongful termination attorneys at our firm have years of experience handling retaliation claims related to workers’ comp, and we can discuss your options with you today. Contact Arechigo & Stokka to learn more about the services we provide to employees and their families in Minnesota. We are eager to begin assisting you throughout each step of your workers’ compensation case.