Discrimination and Worker's Compensation

I built a store for a large company five years ago. I am company trainer and Manager. Have a new District Manager. I was injured in August(first time in my life), a six-foot beem came down and hit me in the head jamming my neck and shoulder).
After having 45 employees in a five-year span (due to a college town), a report was made from an employee that she was not paid for three hours of labor. Labor department did an investigation. I had every receipt and every memo to my new DM. It was due to only having two registers, one totally broke and one kept freezing with no receipts coming out. Told employees to keep track in case something wasn't right.
All-in-all, the labor department labeled it as non-founded. Even kept the number on the receipt for returning the non-working registers through FedEx.
While I am home on workman's compensation; my new DM called the store, told both my Assistants straight out I played with payroll and that I am guilty. One person quit immediately, the only heard it every day from the DM who did not insinuate; but accused me and I checked with the labor department again who assured me it was not founded and that my DM never even returned their calls to find out the decision. My second assistant had enough and put in her two weeks notice; but quit before the end of the two weeks.
My assistants were told to change the locks; don't speak to me and that I was guilty.
Then the new DM called me at home (first time in three months since the accident) and yelled at me and threatened me she was notifing Worker's Comp that I was working. This is due to when they had the Labor Investigation in the store, another DM was there and he called to ask where the sheet was with codes to take out old employees from the computer. The new DM stated that since I answered, I was considered working management.
She told me to stay out of the store. This is the only retail store in a twenty-mile radius in the mountains.
Both assistants are fully willing to testify of the harrassment and both gave me notorized statements that this DM made falsified statements regarding my work. My husband was on the phone when she threatened me.
Does this woman have the right to go this far?
She hired a person from another town and was having her trained in another store to take my store. Now the new acting manager is there. This is a good thing because someone needs to be there. I really think the DM is trying to find a way to release me while I am not there. I was released by the doctor as partial disability while I am healing; but the company will not permit me to return until I am 100%, which is permissable and I fully understand.
I dedicated myself to this company, spent many hours, traveled quite often and worked hard and earned every inch up the ladder. I do not feel I deserve the humiliation of falsified statements of my work ethics and character.
Please help.

1 answer  |  asked Dec 17, 2003 10:49 AM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
Discrimination because of filing for Worker's Compensation

Can an supervisor exaggerate or even lie about your performance to justify getting rid of you and not create a liability problem for the employer. Answer: Yes.

The answer goes back to the employment at will doctrine, which permits employers to terminate you for any reason or not reason at all. You can be terminated, legally, even for a false reason. And the employment at will doctrine also allows employers, and their supervisors, to be mean, nasty and arbitrary.

But there are exceptions to the employment at will doctrine, and one of those exceptions has to do with Workers' Compensation. Basically, if the real reason for the supervisor's behavior is your filing a Workers' Compensation claim, then you have a claim of discrimination under the Worker's Compensation Law. You cannot be terminated or otherwise disadvantaged in your employment because you have filed a Workers' Compensation claim.

But note the narrowness of the protection. You cannot be terminated because of filing a Workers' Compensation claim. That does not mean you cannot be terminated while you are out on a Workers' Compensation claim. If the termination has nothing to do with your filing the claim, then the termination is legal.

In New York State, you file a Workers' Compensation claim with the Workers' Compensation Board. The WCB hates these claims, and does a very poor job handling them. Because of the WCB's hostility to these claims, these types of claims are very hard to win.

An attorney cannot charge you a fee in advance in representing you in these claims. This sounds good to you, doesn't it? It's actually a problem because there are very few attorneys willing to take these types of claims. Generally, you will not find an attorney willing to take a case of this type unless you have a very simple, straight forward case involving a very clear cut violation of law.

If attorneys were able to charge you even a small fee, they might have been willing to take your case inorder to get the misconduct of the WCB reviewed by a court.

posted by David M. Lira  |  Dec 17, 2003 4:05 PM [EST]

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