Recently, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in a 5-2 vote to give more legal protection to those employees who are injured and subsequently terminated from their employment.

This expansion of employee rights overturned three decades of legal precedent. Workers no longer must prove their workers’ comp claims were the sole cause for their separation from employment to prevail in litigation that alleges employer retaliation. With this ruling, workers only need to indicate that their filing a workers’ compensation claim was a contributing factor in their being fired.

In the majority opinion, one Missouri Supreme Court justice wrote “Discrimination against an employee for exercising his or her rights under the workers’ compensation law is just as illegal, insidious and reprehensible as discrimination under the (Missouri Human Rights Act).”

Retaliatory firings on the basis of workers’ compensation claims is now equivalent to Missouri’s present standards for those filing discrimination claims based on sex, age and race, or whistleblower cases.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s president/CEO noted that the group may lobby legislators to overturn the court’s majority vote by altering state law. Business groups have been on alert regarding the situation, as well as plaintiffs’ attorneys who represent those injured on the job.

Attorneys for the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys see the ruling as an employee victory, while acknowledging that workers still have an uphill battle to prove their claims.

Workers who are subjected to retaliation for filing workers’ comp claims or who have had their civil rights infringed through discriminatory practices deserve to be treated fairly under the tenets of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Those whose cases may qualify should contact an employment law attorney to see if the new Missouri law will affect them.

Source: The Kansas City Star, “Missouri Supreme Court expands legal rights for injured workers” David A. Lieb, Apr. 15, 2014