Wrongful Termination and Retaliatory Discharge

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel like you were fired wrongfully or due to the fact that you filed a claim for worker’s compensation, it is important to understand what rights you have as well as what Texas courts have to say on the matter. The issues of wrongful termination and retaliatory discharge were recently dealt with in the Kaufman County District Court as well as the Dallas Court of Appeals in KINABREW v. INERGY PROPANE, LLC.

Mr. Kinabrew worked as a delivery driver for Inergy Propane and severely injured his back lifting a propane tank. Kinabrew reported the incident to the company and visited a doctor who subsequently placed him on restricted duty for nearly six months after that. Inergy has a strict twelve-week limit for time off due to injury. Because Mr. Kinabrew’s doctor did not medically clear him until well after the twelve-week period, Inergy fired Mr. Kinabrew due to his inability to perform his duties at the company.

What is Wrongful Termination?

Under Texas law, an employer may not fire an employee for any of the following actions: 1) a good faith filing of a worker’s compensation claim; 2) if an employee hires an attorney for representation in the worker’s compensation claim; 3) instituted or caused the institution of a worker’s compensation claim; or 4) testified in a worker’s compensation claim proceeding. In the Kinabrew case, Mr. Kinabrew claimed Inergy fired him solely due to his filing of the worker’s compensation claim. Inergy argued that they merely followed company policy which demanded that they fire an employee who missed more than twelve weeks of work.

What is Retaliatory Discharge?

Under Texas law, if an employee believes that a company fired him or her based a large part on the fact that the employee filed a worker’s compensation claim, this constitutes a retaliatory discharge and may be a violation of the employee’s rights. In Kinabrew, the employee claimed that Inergy fired him purely due to the fact that he filed a claim for workers compensation, thus violating Texas law. Inergy argued that they company followed the employee handbook step-by-step, and that the termination was only due to the employee missing more time than the handbook allowed. The Court looked at evidence from Inergy that showed that Inergy did indeed follow the employee handbook and only terminated Mr. Kinabrew after he received twelve weeks of leave. Because Inergy did not fire Mr. Kinabrew due to his filing of a worker’s compensation claim, Inergy did not violate Texas Employment law and no evidence of retaliatory discharge existed.

If you have an issue with wrongful termination or retaliatory discharge with a former employer, call Guest and Gray Law Firm’s defense team today. Guest and Gray Law Firm is a full service civil and criminal defense law firm serving the entire DFW Metroplex including Dallas, Kaufman, Rockwall and surrounding counties. Our main office is in Forney, Texas where we have served the community since 1967. We also have office locations in Rockwall and Kaufman, Texas. Our team of lawyers is ready to help with any employment law concern you have.