After several Pre-Formal Hearings, a Formal Hearing and Post-Hearing Briefs, the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission dismissed a retaliation claim brought by an employee under Connecticut General Statute § 31-290a. The case was handled by Stamford partner Jody Cappello.
In his Complaint, the Claimant alleged that he was terminated in retaliation for pursuing his rights against his employer following a workplace injury. He claimed that the termination was a retaliatory adverse employment action in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-290a.
Mr. Cappello successfully argued that the termination was related to actions other than Claimant’s workplace injury claim. The Claimant attempted to show that there was no other reasonable explanation for the termination but he failed to rebut the evidence of his other workplace failures as presented by Mr. Cappello. Mr. Cappello argued and the fact-finder agreed that Conn. Gen. Stat. § 3-290a is limited in its application. The statute provides a right to recovery only in instances when the Claimant proves that the adverse employment occurred solely because the employee was exercising his/her rights under the Workers’ Compensation Statute.
The notable takeaway from the Commission’s decision is that the scope of § 31-290a is finite. If an employer has reasons for termination that do not amount to retaliation for an employee pursuing his/her Workers’ Compensation Act rights, a claim under § 31-290a cannot survive. In the limited context of a § 31-290a claim, the reasons or other factors for the adverse employment action can be sufficient evidence that the termination was not due to a Workers’ Compensation claim. While claimants frequently raise a claim under §31-290a to up the ante of their Workers’ Compensation case as a whole, they must realize that the statute has its bounds and defense counsel can defeat the claim by showing evidence that the adverse employment action was for a reason independent of the employee’s exercise of his/her rights under the Workers’ Compensation Act.