Pennsauken, NJ (Law Firm Newswire) September 22, 2016 – Workers’ compensation retaliation claims do not occur frequently in New Jersey, and the case of Robinson v. Armadillo Automation, Inc. clarifies the rules in handling such cases.
The plaintiff, Spencer Robinson, was employed as a valve technician from May 2005 until August 2011. He claimed that at the time he was hired, he revealed that he had previously suffered from a lower back condition, and he asked the employer to provide him with a stool to enable him to work while seated. The company granted his request.
The defendant disagreed with nearly everything Mr. Robinson stated, including the disclosure of a pre-existing condition. The company said that in March 2011, they observed that the plaintiff was having difficulties, and provided him with a stool, but not in 2005.
Prominent South Jersey personal injury attorneys Petrillo & Goldberg stated, “When an employee feels as though the employer has engaged in retaliation because the employee filed a workers’ compensation claim, the employee should consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can hold the employer accountable for their actions.”
While constructing a valve on April 29, 2011, Mr. Robinson felt pain in his neck. Upon reporting the injury to the Vice President of the company, he claimed that the VP did not treat his neck pain as an injury and refused to transport him to a physician. Therefore, Mr. Robinson sought treatment from two physicians independently, and gave his employer a complete release from his doctor that was to take effect on May 12, 2011. According to company records, the work injury was reported to the insurance company.
However, the defendant denied having refused to carry Mr. Robinson to the hospital, and said that the company gave its approval for plaintiff to consult his family physician. In addition, the company said that upon Mr. Robinson’s return to work in June 2011, it was difficult for him to stand and work on orders for valves. The President of the company requested that he have his primary care physician evaluate his fitness to perform his work duties. The company said that Mr. Robinson did not provide the clearance note from the primary care physician, and that his level of productivity was falling dramatically.
The plaintiff said that it was only after his attempt to return to work that his employer threatened to deprive him of his stool. He also contended that following his work injury, the company president and vice president commented on his industrious nature. Moreover, he said they communicated with him about his retirement for the first time since his injury. Furthermore, he alleges that he obtained a note from his family physician that the company did not recognize because they wished to speak with the doctor. The plaintiff said he subsequently signed a release permitting the company to speak with the doctor, but they never did.
One fact over which there is no disagreement is that Mr. Robinson had not been written up during his employment until he did not clock out in June 2011. The company informed the plaintiff about his decrease in production, and that they had noticed his difficulties on the job. In addition, they insist that he did not clock out at lunch time six times. In his defense, Mr. Robinson said the clock out rule was not strictly observed, and the clock was not functioning properly. He said there was only one instance where he did not clock out at lunch.
Another fact that is undisputed is that the company did not give him an increase in salary on his anniversary date of May 29, 2011. On August 1, 2011, he was suspended for five days, and he was subsequently terminated for a fall in productivity, failure to clock out at lunch, and failure to obtain a clearance note from his doctor.
He filed a lawsuit alleging that the company retaliated against him because of his workers’ compensation claim. Although the trial court sided with the employer, the Appellate Division reversed, applying the McDonnell Douglas rule, which requires the plaintiff to prove:
* membership in a protected class
* performance before termination
* termination from employment
* the employer hired another person to perform the same duties following his termination. (The plaintiff claimed the company hired two people following his termination.)
The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Statute forbids employers from terminating or discriminating against an employee on the basis of the employee’s claim of workers’ compensation benefits. Employees in NJ can file a lawsuit against their employer in a court of law for engaging in retaliation against them for filing workers’ compensation claims or for reporting their work injuries to their employers and trying to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.
Learn more at http://www.petrilloandgoldberg.com/
Petrillo & Goldberg Law
6951 North Park Drive
Pennsauken, NJ 08109
19 South 21st Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
70 South Broad Street
Woodbury, NJ 08096
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