An employee who just returned from medical leave was astonished to learn he was being fired the first day back on the job. In the case of Hertz Equipment Rental Corporation v. Kyle Barousse in Houston’s First District Court of Appeals, Barousse’s wrongful termination judgment against Hertz was recently affirmed. The appellate court found that the evidence legally and factually showed Hertz wrongfully terminated Barousse.
It all started when Barousse was riding in a company-owned auto during a sales call and a truck ran into them. Barousse was the central Texas region sales director. He sought medical attention after the accident, but paid for these bills himself as he believed Hertz did not want workers’ compensation claims. As his injuries were too extensive, Barousse ultimately had to file a workers’ comp claim and recuperate during a month-long leave of absence in October.
While he was gone, his boss and the region’s human resources manager began to prepare performance improvement reports showing his lack of sales and an action plan for every 30 days for the next 90-day period when objectives were not met. In November, he returned to work and was given the corrective measures he needed to meet to achieve his manager’s and the company’s goal. But by the end of that month, Barousse was again in excruciating pain. Doctors advised that he would need several months before he could return to the workplace.
Hertz Rental Cars started an initiative to restructure its employees and a regional vice president tagged Barousse as a possible candidate for elimination. Other sales directors were given alternate employment within the company when their positions were either consolidated or done away with completely. The trial evidence showed that Hertz decided to conceal their displeasure with his workers’ comp claim and medical leave, and kept Barousse unaware while he has gone.
In October of the next year, Barousse was cleared to return to work. The first day back he was asked to go to the human resources office and was told he was being laid off with a severance package. Barousse did not sign the release for the severance and instead filed suit. At trial, the Texas court found that Hertz violated the state’s workers’ comp anti-retaliation statute and awarded Barousse $665,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages. The only change on appeal was to vacate the $100,000 punitive award.
In Texas, the Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan has represented employees and employers in employment lawsuits for over 20 years. Austin employment attorney and Austin business lawyer Gregory D. Jordan has substantial experience in employment lawsuits, including wrongful termination and retaliation claims, as well as a wide range of business disputes.
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Gregory D. Jordan is an Austin business attorney, Austin employment lawyer, and Austin business litigation lawyer. To learn more, visit Theaustintriallawyer.com.